Hot Car Hazards

Local tragedy

A Palm Harbor family is going through the unimaginable. After dropping his daughter off at elementary school, a Hillsborough County firefighter left his 23-month-old son in the backseat of the car. He went to the grocery store, and returned home to study for a firefighter’s exam, all the while never realizing that his son was still sitting in the car. Left in the car for hours, the toddler’s body temperature reached around 108 degrees. By the time the father realized his mistake, it was tragically too late to save the child.

The father has been charged with aggravated manslaughter. Even worse than that, he must now live with his grief and guilt. This incident, and many others like it, is likely a tragic mistake. Still, it raises questions about how to handle  and prevent such tragedies.


An average of 37 children die annually after being left in hot cars. This year, the total has already reached 29 deaths. 87% of children who die in hot cars are under the age of three. Due to the intense heat, Florida and Texas lead the United States in the number of hot car deaths. A child left in a car will suffer much more quickly than an adult would. Even with a temperature of just 70 degrees, a situation can quickly turn fatal, since the inside temperature of the car can rapidly increases. Heat stroke occurs when the body reaches a temperature of 104 degrees, and can lead to confusion, seizures, and a loss of consciousness, along with the potential for death.


To avoid leaving a child in a car, it is recommended that you leave something else in the backseat with your child. This might include a purse, cell phone, or even shoes. This might seem ridiculous to you — how could someone remember their cell phone but forget a child? Actually, though, even a minor change in plans (like dropping off your children in a different order, stopping somewhere else before dropping your child off, or especially, driving your child around when your spouse or partner usually does it) can throw off your ingrained schedule, leading to mistakes. By putting something essential to your daily routine in the backseat of your car, you will be reminded that your child is there, too.

You can also make arrangements with your child’s daycare or school to call you if your child doesn’t show up. In the case of the Palm Harbor child, the father was supposed to drop his son off at daycare. If he had received a call from his son’s daycare that morning, he might have realized his mistake sooner. Never purposefully leave your child in a car, even if you are making a quick run into a store. Again, even a few minutes in a hot car can be incredibly dangerous for a child.

Be aware

The accidental death of a child in a hot car is not something any parent or guardian ever wants to think about. Be aware of the facts and dangers. You can take the rights steps to prevent a tragic accident from happening to your family.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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