Leaving kids in hot cars burns me up

I simply do not understand parents leaving children in hot cars.

We all know of the high-profile case in Cobb County, where Justin Harris is charged with murder in the death of his son. And just this week a father in Clayton County left his son in a hot car — while he visited his parole officer. And we had our own case here in Gwinnett.

According to kidsandcars.org, an average of 38 kids die each year after being left in hot cars. My question is: Why?

How on Earth can you forget your child is in the car? How preoccupied and self-involved do you have to be to leave your kid in what essentially becomes an oven after a little while in the blazing summer sun. And in the South, it can get hot quickly in a car pretty much any time of the year.

I’m driving a rental car right now while my truck is being repaired, and for whatever reason it seems the car gets infinitely hotter than my truck. The past couple of days it’s been like a blast furnace when I went to get in it, and both days I couldn’t help but think of these little children, left behind in these sweltering cars either by accident, on purpose (as in, “I’ll just be inside a few minutes”) or in the Cobb case, allegedly with malicious intent.

Both days my steering wheel was too hot to touch. My sunglasses, which were in the little storage compartment out of the sun, were too hot to put on. How hot does a baby get in that kind of heat?

According to the website, the internal temperature of a car can reach 125 degrees Farenheit with the windows down. That’s only about five degrees off from the internal temp of a medium rare steak. Who knows what it reaches with the windows up?

When I was a kid I passed out from heat exhaustion one time. I played catcher on my baseball team, and I’d spent the better part of a sweltering afternoon chasing wild pitches to the backstop — and not drinking enough water. Toward the end of the game I started to feel funny. There were cobwebs in my head and my skin felt dry and hot.

After my last trip to the backstop ended with my shinguard getting stuck under the fence, I got up and walked back to the diamond. I was wheezing, and I told the umpire: “I … can’t … bre—”

And then I passed out on home plate.

I woke up a few seconds later and coaches were stripping my uniform off and covering me in ice. From that day forward, I was never allowed back in the dugout between innings without going to the spigot and wetting my head and taking a drink of water.

Now, instead of a teenager in catcher’s gear running around in an open field with adults on hand, think of a baby, alone, strapped down so he can’t move, sitting in an ersatz oven, with no water, no means of escape, and the seconds ticking down until he suddenly can’t breathe. It doesn’t take long for that to happen. Sometimes just minutes. And then the situation turns deadly.

Get your priorities in order. Remember your children. Get them out of the car. Keep them cool.

And keep them alive.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.