Most of us fondly remember hot summer days as a kid. However, one of the major downsides was the experience of boiling car journeys, which were particularly bad if the car had been left sitting out in the sun. Some days, it would be like stepping inside a greenhouse.
As a result, no one wants to be inside a car in the sun on a scorching day. Likewise, we all know that you shouldn’t leave a dog in a hot car when you go into the store. And while this Florida mom didn’t have a dog, she did have a son.
Thirty-year-old Colleen Walker was making a visit to the Dollar General store in South Daytona, Florida, with both her son and daughter. She locked her son inside her SUV and then took her daughter into the store with her.
However, the temperature was already reaching 100 ºF in the sun. As a result, the interior of the car itself reached a high of 107 ºF. And, according to police who saw CCTV footage, Walker and her daughter were in the store for about half an hour.
Fortunately, a passerby saw the boy locked inside the SUV. He was clearly in distress, “crying and screaming,” according to the passerby, who called 911. Next, firefighters arrived to break into the car and pull the boy out.
To be fair, Walker had left the driver’s window down, even though she’d locked the doors. However, according to studies, the difference in temperature rise is negligible. With the windows open, the temperature still rises about 3.1 °F each five minutes, compared to 3.4 °F with the windows shut.
And that’s not the only problem. Young children’s bodies are less able to regulate temperature than adults, heating up three to five times faster than grown-ups. This means that they’re much more susceptible to illnesses like heatstroke and can get really sick or even die.
So by the time Walker returned to her car, firefighters and police were waiting for her. Furthermore, the people that had potentially just saved her son’s life were deeply unimpressed by the mom’s reaction to the incident. Allegedly, she was entirely unrepentant for what she’d done.
After all, the responders were well within their rights to be angry with Walker. As reported by American Web Media in July 2017, one of them was recorded as saying, “Don’t get all huffy and puffy. Because I’m not going to feel bad for you. I don’t care. We get cases and cases where, 10, 15 minutes, the kid is dead.”
In fact, what Walker had done – leaving her son in a locked hot car for so long – is against the law in most states. Even leaving a pet in a hot car is illegal in 23 states, never mind a child. As a result, the police arrested Walker and drove her to jail.
However, as they made their way, Walker made the most ironic comment possible. Sitting in the backseat of the police cruiser, she started complaining about the heat. She went as far as to request that the cops turn up the air conditioning.
Bizarrely, it didn’t seem to register with her that her son would likely have been much hotter while trapped in the SUV. Subsequently, she was retained on a $5,000 bond, and is probably facing a maximum of five years behind bars. The charges are for child neglect, though, and not for the blindly ironic comment.
In the summer in hotter states, leaving your kids behind is no laughing matter. As a matter of fact, around 38 kids die as a result of being stuck inside hot cars every single year in the United States. Often it’s not intended as neglect – parents are simply doing what feels convenient without thinking about the consequences.
Fortunately for Walker, this story could have had a much worse ending. Both of her children are still alive and well, despite her mistake. However, that wasn’t the case in the story of Cynthia Randolph, a Texas mom with two kids.
On that day in Texas, temperatures were reaching 96 °F. According to studies, that means after 30 minutes with the windows rolled up, a car interior would approach 129 °F. Randolph left her children, aged one and two, locked in the car for hours.
According to Randolph, she had locked the two infants in the car as a punishment, and had expected the two-year-old to unlock the door when she was ready. Obviously, this was not possible for the little girl. Randolph went inside and fell asleep.
When she returned to the car hours later, both children were dead. She broke the car window and tried to make it seem like an accident but would later confess her neglect to the police. Consequently, she faces first-degree felony charges for the deaths of her children.
Occasionally, a child will die in a car completely by accident. One Georgia mom, Jenny Stanley, gives talks around the state about how her daughter climbed into her car which was sitting in the driveway. By the time anyone thought to look in the car for the child, it was too late.
In 2014 Stanley told WBUR, “Please, never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a second. Because I can tell you, 100 percent, it is not worth it. I don’t want any other family to go through this pain… you have to check and make sure all the children are out… make sure the car is locked so they cannot get back in.”
Ultimately, efforts are being made to try and curb this disturbing trend. In fact, politician Tim Ryan has put forward legislation to make car manufacturers incorporate a safety system in new cars. This would sound an alert if a child was on the back seat so the driver would be reminded of the child’s presence and made to think about the temperature.