WATCH ABOVE: One father’s impassioned plea to parents not to leave their children unattended in the car during a hot day has become a viral sensation.
TORONTO – A video of a North Carolina man sitting in his hot car in hopes of raising awareness about the dangers of leaving children inside has gone viral.
“I want to know how it feels to be left in the car, sitting in the back seat, strapped into a car seat with the windows up and doors probably locked,” said Terry Bartley in the clip.
Uploaded onto YouTube last month, the 33-year-old father of three children said he could only last 20 minutes in the car as temperatures hit nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) outside.
“It was almost like someone was in the car choking me and I couldn’t breathe,” said Bartley.
To date, Bartley’s YouTube video has more than 1.3 million views and other parents have already responded with their own “hot car” challenge video.
Children are accidentally left behind in hot vehicles every year in Canada and the U.S. While experts say the mistake is preventable, most parents still think it could never happen to them.
The Canada Safety Council says that while no Canadian data is available, an average of 38 of these types of deaths occur each year from heat-related incidents in the United States.
‘Share the message’
Bartley said he created the “hot car challenge” last month after the highly publicized case of 22-month-old Cooper Harris.
The boy’s father, Justin Ross Harris, faces murder and child cruelty charges in the June 18 death of his son.
The father told police he left the boy in the SUV for about seven hours after forgetting to drop him off at day care and going to work.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying he left his son in the car accidentally.
Police testified in a court hearing last week that Harris was using a computer to exchange nude photos with women the day his son died. The father had also reportedly viewed some websites that advocated against having children and others that detailed how people die in hot cars.
Harris’ defence attorneys have portrayed him as a caring father who never intended to harm his child and made a horrible mistake.
“Don’t be the next fool on the damn news talking about you left your kids in the back seat,” Bartley says in closing his clip. “Share this message.”
Never leave a child unattended, even for a moment
Even on days that seem relatively mild, experts say it only takes 20 minutes for the interior of a vehicle to reach extreme temperatures.
“Exposure to these conditions can cause a child to overheat, go into shock and sustain vital organ failure,” said Raynald Marchand of the Canada Safety Council in a previous interview with Global News. “In the confined space of a car, temperatures can climb so rapidly that they overwhelm a child’s ability to regulate his or her internal temperature. The body, especially a small body, can go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail.”
Experts say children are especially sensitive to heat exposure because their sweat glands are not fully developed, which means their bodies are not capable of cooling down quickly.
“When exposed to heat, a child’s body temperature rises three times faster than an adult in the same conditions,” he said. “Leaving a window slightly open, or ‘cracked,’ does little to prevent the temperature from rising to a level that is dangerous for children, vulnerable adults and pets.”
“Develop the habit of consciously checking that all occupants are out of the vehicle before it is parked and locked. The simple advice is to never leave a child alone in a vehicle – not even for a minute.”
– with files from The Associated Press