Breaking windows to teach hot car dangers

Local leaders say paying attention to parked cars could save a life.

“Children, unfortunately, die in hot cars,” said Lori Gray, the southern Illinois administrator for Illinois Illinois Department of Children & Family Services. 

Gray says IDCFS partnered with the Harrisburg Fire Department to show the danger hot cars pose to unwatched kids.

Thirty-seven kids die in hot cars every year. Across the country, 23 children have died in hot cars already this year. As hot weather sticks around, so does the risk of injury or death from hot temperatures inside cars.

The sound of glass breaking in the summer could signal a life being saved. Harrisburg mom Michelle Bradley says it’s hard to even watch a doll roasting inside a van in the July heat.

"It was very terrifying to even see a baby in there," Bradley said, her son Cooper nodding alongside her.

Even with the windows broken inside a van, the temperature inside can reach well above 130 degrees. With the windows up, the temperature can soar higher.

Michelle and Cooper tried breaking the windows to get the doll out. But even a few swings with a hammer, then a bat, couldn’t crack them.

"And I was very surprised at how hard it was to break that glass. I took three very hard swings and didn’t even crack it," she said.

Harrisburg firefighters say they get around a dozen or so hot car calls every year. 

"Not just left in cars, but getting into cars unknowingly and then not being found," Gray said.

Gray says call 911 first. If you can’t wait for help and the person inside is in distress, having the right tools on hand like a window cutter or breaker could save a life.

Most states now have laws providing immunity to good Samaritans breaking cars for child safety. Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois and Kentucky have those immunity laws. But, you do have to have reasonable good faith to believe the person is in imminent danger, and you must call 911 before breaking a window. Remain with the child in a safe location after doing breaking the window.

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