PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As a heat dome sends temperatures through the roof across the U.S., health and law enforcement officials have a reminder for people: don’t leave children alone in the car.
Even if it feels cool outside, temperatures inside a parked car can greatly exceed that of outside air as heat becomes trapped in the vehicle, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.
But with KOIN 6 meteorologists forecasting a scorching weekend — highs passing 90 degrees for three days into Monday — it is exceptionally dangerous to leave children alone in the car.
Not only do their body temperatures rise three to five times faster than adults’ but children become dehydrated faster than adults, the Environmental Protection Agency says. And according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the cabin of a car can heat up by 20 degrees within 10 minutes.
For context, that means on Sunday, which is expected to reach up to 97 degrees in the Portland metro area, temperatures inside a parked car could pass that of the record-shattering heatwave that left more than 100 dead across the state — all within 10 minutes.
And it’s not just dangerous, it’s illegal. Oregon law says children under 10 years old may not be left alone in any place for a period of time that could endanger their welfare. Those who break ORS 163.545 could face a charge of child neglect in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor.
In fact, Oregon adopted a “Good Samaritan” law in 2017 designed to protect children and pets left in hot cars. ORS 30.813 indicates that concerned citizens can lawfully enter unattended, locked vehicles “by force or otherwise” to get them out — if a number of other conditions are met.
“We hope we never come across a case in which a child has been injured or dies as a result of being left unattended in a motor vehicle during a hot day,” said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Chuck Mickley in a 2021 article on the DA’s website.
“We cannot stress this enough, leaving a child, especially an infant who is unable to care for themselves, in a hot car unattended is not acceptable and could be a violation of the law,” Mickley said.
“They could die within minutes,” the NHTSA’s website warns.
CDC officials cautioned people never to leave a child in a parked car even with the windows open. Children in these scenarios, health officials said, are at the “greatest risk for heatstroke and possibly death.”
Safety and animal advocates issue the same plea to pet owners — never leave a furry friend in a car.
Health officials say leaving children or pets in hot places like parked cars could quickly lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke or death. Watch out for the signs of heat-related illnesses with KOIN 6 News’ coverage here.
The Multnomah County DA’s Office offers these tips if you come across a child or person left unattended in a car:
- Alert others in the area of the situation so someone can help keep an eye on the person or pet
- Take down a description of the vehicle, including make, model, color and license plate
- Notify nearby businesses and/or security guards to ask that a public announcement be made
- If the situation does not appear to be life-threatening, contact non-emergency dispatch at is 503.823.3333
Officials say to call 911 and report life-threatening situations immediately. Multnomah County Animal Services dispatchers can be reached at 503.988.7387.