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What to Do If You See a Baby Trapped in a Hot Car

How to Break a Car Window to Get an Infant or Child Out of a Hot Car Immediately

This may seem very bold and it will probably be a frightening experience for you but remember, you are only breaking into the car if an infant is in imminent danger of death by heatstroke.

  1. Select the door window furthest from the baby.
  2. Use a hard object such as a tire iron, wrench, or can of food (whatever is available) to break the window.
  3. Choose a point in the window just above the door lock in case all you can do is make a hole.
  4. It will be much harder to break than you expect but keep trying.
  5. Hitting the window with the edge or pointy part of whatever object you are using may help to get the break started.
  6. Wrap your sleeve or other cloth item around your hand and push into the hole you've created.
  7. Reach in and unlock the door.
  8. Get the infant out, car seat and all, and into the shade.

What Should I Do?

Almost everyone who owns an automobile has left something they wish they hadn't out in the car in the sun. Whether it was a CD, a box of crayons, or a chocolate bar melted into slag, they got to see how intensely hot a vehicle can get inside when it isn't even necessarily all that warm outside. Whatever the case, almost everyone knows enough not to leave anything living in a hot car.

Unfortunately even if you know enough not to leave any living thing out in a car in the hot sun, there are still other people who either think it will be OK "just for a minute" or who just don't comprehend that their vehicle gets hot enough to literally cook things inside it. Even some people who completely understand the dangers accidentally leave their sleeping babies unattended. Every year, around forty American babies die because their caregivers left them unattended in an automobile in baking temperatures. Luckily, about twice as many are rescued by strangers who knew what to do and had the confidence to act.

Sadly, in a recent experiment involving a very life-like infant doll, nine out of ten people who noticed the "baby" trapped in the hot car did nothing. I'd like to think it's because they were afraid or didn't know what to do. The purpose of this page is to arm people with a plan so they can act with confidence if they suddenly find themselves the only thing standing between an infant and death by heatstroke.

So what should you do when someone else has left their infant in a hot car unattended?

WARNING and DISCLAIMER: Please Read First

WARNING: I cannot guarantee that taking the actions recommended on this page will be legal and without consequences in all instances.

However, this is truly a life or death situation and you are likely to be covered by Good Samaritan laws should the parents or caregivers decide to care more about their car window than their baby. I sincerely believe that this plan is way better than leaving an infant to die or suffer a stroke, no matter the consequences, as I know I couldn't live with myself if my inaction lead to the injury or death of an innocent person. However, the author of this page bears no responsibility should you decide to follow these recommendations.

Why Did So Few People Try to Help?

In an experiment involving a very life-like infant doll trapped inside a car only one in ten people who noticed the situation, either by seeing the "baby" or by hearing the crying noises coming from the car, did anything to help. While I think their fear of being in trouble for touching someone else's car or criticizing someone else's parenting surely affected their decisions to walk on by, I doubt those issues would be big enough to stop most people from acting in a life or death situation. I think people failed to act because they didn't have any idea what to do when presented with a situation so far outside their normal experiences.

How to Break a Car Window - if you find it necessary to save a life

photo by Milca, freeimages.com

photo by Milca, freeimages.com

If you have a cell phone and you are alone

  1. Call 911 immediately as you are checking the car doors to see if they are unlocked.
  2. If a door is unlocked, open all of the car doors to cool off the interior.
  3. If the baby appears to be in severe distress, remove the baby, car seat and all from the car and into the shade.
  4. Stay on the line with the 911 operator detailing everything you are doing.
  5. Shade the baby while waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive.
  6. If the doors are locked ask the 911 operator for advice.
  7. If the baby appears to be in immediate danger (the temperature outside is 90 degrees or hotter, the child appears to be unresponsive, is discolored, or in some kind of obvious distress) inform the 911 operator that you are going to break a window to get the baby out.
  8. Stay on the line with the 911 operator.
  9. Break a window as described above.

Heat Facts and Your Car

If you question how serious it is to find an infant or small child trapped in a car or other automobile in the heat, check out the facts and figures on the page listed below. Cars become oven-like death traps in a matter of minutes and when an infant or toddler is trapped inside, even seconds count. The very first priority is getting the child out of that automobile oven as fast as possible.

  • Kids and Cars: Heatstroke
    This page gives facts, figures, and tips to prevent heatstroke. It also links to the stories of babies and toddlers who died from heatstroke from being left in cars. The stories are heartbreaking.

If you have a cell phone and you are with someone else

  1. Call 911 immediately as you are checking the car doors to see if they are unlocked.
  2. Instruct the person with you to go into nearby stores or businesses to try to find a parent or guardian and to get some assistance or even some witnesses.
  3. If the infant or toddler is in imminent danger of heatstroke, tell the 911 operator you are going to get the baby out of the car and proceed to get him or her out of the car in whatever manner is necessary while staying on the line with the 911 operator. Set the phone down on the car if you have to but keep the connection.
  4. If the baby does not appear to be in imminent danger of heatstroke (it's not very hot out, the air conditioning appears to be running, etc.) ask the 911 operator for advice and, using your body or an item of clothing, block the sunlight falling on the child.
  5. Stay on the line with the 911 operator until help arrives.

If you do not have a cell phone and are alone

  1. If there is anyone else around yell for help and direct them to call 911. Something like, "Help! Help! There's a baby trapped in a hot car! Someone call 911!" would be appropriate.
  2. Proceed directly to trying to get the baby out of the car after yelling for help if he or she appears to be in immediate danger.
  3. If the baby is alert and seems unharmed and no one is around, get the first person you see to go get help and call 911.
  4. If the baby seems "off" even in the slightest, get him out of the automobile and carry him, car seat and all, into the nearest business and have someone call 911 immediately.

If you are with someone else and neither of you has a cell phone

  1. Send the other person into a nearby business to call 911 and to get help.
  2. Proceed to trying the car doors and to breaking the car window out if necessary if the infant or toddler appears to be in immediate danger.
photo by Kylyssa Shay

photo by Kylyssa Shay

If this can happen to crayon shavings in under ten minutes, what is going to happen to a baby trapped in a car in the same time?

Dealing With Angry Parents or Guardians

  • If an angry parent or guardian shows up before police, leave the baby in the shade and back away.
  • Inform the parent or guardian that the police are on their way.
  • Stay on the line with the 911 operator.
  • If you fear for your safety, retreat but try to stay in sight of the situation and give the 911 operator the vehicle's license plate number and description as well as a description of the hostile adult.
  • If you do not have a cell phone, retreat to the nearest business and get someone to call 911.
  • Keep in mind that the life of a baby is at stake. Dealing with an angry adult is a small price to pay for a life.

Summer Days, Hot Cars and Kids

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

How Would You React if You Saw a Baby Trapped in a Hot Car?

jen09 writes on May 29, 2014:

A little off topic, but one day my mom had kept the baby for a few hours, but the carseat was still in my car. I got out and started walking towards the store. A caring, wonderful older lady (mid-sixties I would guess) began screaming, "Ma'am! Ma'am!" I turned around and she said, "You left your baby in the car!" I panicked (forgetting the baby was with my mom and thinking I really did something that stupid), ran to the car and found that my toddler had left her baby doll in the infant carseat. Still, so thankful someone cared enough to let me know that they thought I had left my child in danger

LadyDuck on July 29, 2013:

Everything is allowed if there is a child in danger. Thanks for these useful tips.

SBPI Inc on July 16, 2013:

Do what is most expedient for the child's' safety.

anonymous on November 28, 2012:

Smash open the driver's window, get to the nearest business, and dial 911. Too bad I parents get angry, I just saved the child you almost killed.

anonymous on September 02, 2012:

Our baby got locked inside the car, when the car door accidentaly locked with the keys inside of it! Then, we had to call 911, and they came out to unlock the door, and rescued our baby! It was very terrifying, and after that incident, I always keep a "secret" car key, hidden on the outside of the car, in case of any emergencies, I would recomment this idea, to anyone who has a baby! It's a lifesaver! Those rescuers are our heroes, thank you so much, for helping us!

anonymous on August 13, 2012:

@anonymous: I think that the "Good Samaritan" laws apply to any animal stuck in the same conditions.

RippinT on August 08, 2012:

Thank you for this information. I never knew that many babies die because their caregivers left them in hot cars.

anonymous on August 03, 2012:

I hate it when people leave their kids in the car my neighbours do it all the time. I understand they don't want to wake them up but goodness me, not only could they die but get kidnapped!

anonymous on July 26, 2012:

Call 911 would be my reaction. Just a note - many people leave their dogs to this same fate. I wonder how many would react to a puppy trapped in a hot car.

Rymom28 on July 25, 2012:

I would immediately tell someone then call 911 - it tends to be better to have more than one person involved in situation such as these. Thank you for addressing such an important issue - where we live it gets very hot and children have died from being left in hot cars for too long, so it is important that people do something when they witness something like this happening.

Fay from Cornwall, UK on July 23, 2012:

Interesting lens. I think in this country the parents would be taken to court for negligence. I don't know many people who would think you were the bad guy for smashing the window.

ninakreativa on July 22, 2012:

Wow, this lens really is one of the most useful and "a must to see" ones I've seen for quite a long time. There are so many really useful tips on what to do if we see a baby trapped in a hot car that maybe one day truly can safe life. Well done!

chas65 on July 21, 2012:

Just read about another death where 4 year old was left in a van after a field trip at a day care center in Dallas. high that day was 105. These tragedies happen way too often.

Tagarack on July 21, 2012:

It's a shame in this day and age that lawsuits and the fear of retribution often keep people from doing the right thing. I've seen a lot of well meaning people get railroaded for trying to help, or wind up in big trouble. Even so, to me it would depend on the situation. If I thought the child could not wait for 911, then I would act, but if they can, then having the police deal with the situation would be the best idea. Because it's possible that parent has a gun and would shoot you for messing with their kid, even if you were trying to save them.But these are good tips in emergency situations.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on July 20, 2012:

@LynetteBell: I think it's actually more common for people to lock dogs in hot cars. The only real difference in dealing with that situation would be to call the non-emergency police number instead of 911 because 911 is reserved strictly for human emergencies.

LynetteBell from Christchurch, New Zealand on July 20, 2012:

Lots of people have locked dogs in the hot car too.

flycatcherrr on July 20, 2012:

I'm so glad you wrote this. It's easy to 'freeze' in a situation like this, common sense and all - it would just seem so unreal, to see a baby locked in a hot car - so I think it can really help to read about exactly what steps to take and kind of mentally 'rehearse' the situation, so it would be more of an instinctive reaction if this ever happened. Sort of like doing a fire drill, or at least planning a route.

Lacy from Chenault on July 20, 2012:

I would be shocked, and then try 911 immediately - be thankful for cell phones!!

gemjane on July 20, 2012:

Thank you for this very useful lens!

Rom from Australia on July 20, 2012:

What a great lens! Thanks for doing it!

okajewelryshow on July 20, 2012:

very nice sharing , i like your sharing very much ! pls keep on .

intermarks on July 19, 2012:

I will definitely call 911 first then try my best to release them.

latiptop on July 19, 2012:

This is an amazing lens. Thank you! I'm going to share it on my summer sun lens.

getmoreinfo on July 19, 2012:

This is good information because plenty of parents have been warned about leaving small children and babies in a car but it still happens.

RuthMadison on July 19, 2012:

This is such valuable information! I would have no idea what to do if I encountered this. Now I will!(I know that sometimes children get left in cars by accident. I once read a magazine article that was heart breaking about a father who forgot he was taking his infant to daycare and left it in the car when he went to work and the child died. He was wracked with guilt, of course)

Margarita Boettcher from Morrison, Colorado on July 19, 2012:

I grew up in AZ and unfortunately I saw this happen over and over. Once my older brother helped me break a window to get three little guys out. And yes mother flipped out! I was glad she flipped:D Gave me excuse to yell at her. Another time I went store to store yelling for the idiot who left kids in car. Found her at post office. Everyone there helped me chase her out and go get her kids:D Do what it takes! Great lens!

Slevara on July 19, 2012:

Great advice! Thank you.

jaredsgirl on July 19, 2012:

I would seriously be SO angry and do whatever I had to. I have 2 darling children of my own (2 and 9) and NEVER would I EVER leave them in the car. Even to go into a convenience store. They come with me no matter how long I'll be gone. I feel very passionate about this and have strong opinions that parents who leave their defenseless children in the car on a hot day need parenting classes. What an awful thing to do to someone so sweet and little. Thanks for a great lens!!

queenofduvetcover on July 19, 2012:

I would definitely try to get the baby out of the car! What kind of parent would leave a baby/child inside a hot car?? Definitely not a good one! These are great tips. Thank you.

createpink on July 19, 2012:

I'd take your advice as well. So sad.

Jo Gavilan on July 19, 2012:

Thank you for this lens! I was going to a coffee shop and I saw this lady leaving her baby in the car. I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to start a fight..and maybe she really was going to be only a minute. But I saw she was leaving the window cracked for the baby...and there were a bunch of yellowjackets flying around the car (we were right next to a dumpster) so I said something and she took the baby inside with her. Glad I did!

adragast24 on July 19, 2012:

Wonderful lens. I saw a baby left in a car once. I was with some friends but insisted we would stay there until parents would come. They came after 2-3 minutes so no big deal but I could clearly see that my friends would not have bothered waiting there without me. On their defense it was not a hot day (probably around 15 so the risk was probably minor).

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on July 19, 2012:

I always carry a cell phone fully charged and have twice called Police to such incidents. They are never angry at you, the parent always says I was only gone for 5 or 10 minutes, but that can be enough for the child to die if it is hot.I have not yet had to break the glass, but would use my tire wrench if I had to. Great lens and this applies to animals too.

sarasentor lm on July 18, 2012:

I will try to pull him out from the car.

Sher Ritchie on July 18, 2012:

I'd take your advice... Thankyou for making this lens; it's (most likely) a lifesaver.

Sfthomas on July 18, 2012:

It's important to have one's priorities set. If the life of the baby is important, there should be no hesitation: save the child. This is a good reminder of that. Very nice.

anonymous on July 18, 2012:

It's important to get the knowledge out there. To many children and baby's die from being stuck inside a hot car. It greatly saddens me to hear about it on the news, its unnecessary and a completely avoidable death/harm. Thank you for providing this information. You probably saved many lives.

djroll on July 18, 2012:

A great lens; you are brave to offer advice on this subject. Bless you.

Kae Yo on July 18, 2012:

This is very useful. Thank you for your advice, though I hope I don't have to use it.

thememorybooksh1 on July 18, 2012:

Thanks for the tips.

anonymous on July 17, 2012:

Very timely and sound advice. Great idea for a lens.

anonymous on July 17, 2012:

Great and very useful lens. Thank you so much for your advice.

peggygallyot on July 17, 2012:

I would do exactly as you advised, this did happen on one of our highway stopovers. The mother left the child in the car and accidentally lock the door with the keys still in the car. Realizing her mistake she shouted for help. No one knew what to do.then one guy decided to break the glass. The baby was saved.

stazza14 on July 17, 2012:

hey great lens! very informative! wonderful helpful information for all different situations

BoonvilleGal on July 17, 2012:

Exactly what I would do!! Great lens...informative!!

Rosaquid on July 17, 2012:

I did see such a thing many years ago. The mother had left several children for "just a moment." The little fair-skinned baby was directly in the sun and already bright red, though the car was running. I had an older child shade the baby with a blanket just as the indignant mother returned. I was rather indignant my self, and informed her that in Arizona it was illegal even to leave a dog in the car on a hot day, and that her baby was seriously at risk. I do hope she learned a lesson.

RoadMonkey on July 17, 2012:

Yes, this was very useful. Thank you for providing this information.

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on July 16, 2012:

I hope never to see this happen but I know that I would be able to respond. I have taken the St. John's First Aid course and in Canada the Good Samaritan Law covers cases where loss of life is eminent. Important information here! Angel blessed!

Paula7928 on July 16, 2012:

Great lens! It is unbelievable that a parent could leave a baby locked in a hot care alone.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on July 16, 2012:

I hope I would follow your guidelines and call for emergency help, shade the baby and break into the car if the situation was desperate. Excellent topic, well covered.

John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on July 16, 2012:

I would have no qualms about breaking the window. If the parents came back angry with me, they are the ones who should be afraid, not me. I nearly had to do this once, the mother was there and she'd lost her keys. She would have been happy if I'd broken the glass but she found her keys just in time.

John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on July 16, 2012:

I would have no qualms about breaking the window. If the parents came back angry with me, they are the ones who should be afraid, not me. I nearly had to do this once, the mother was there and she'd lost her keys. She would have been happy if I'd broken the glass but she found her keys just in time.

Rose Jones on July 16, 2012:

Your lenses always help us see the humanity behind a situation - in this case a helpless infant. I will be better prepared if this ever happens around me. Squid Angel Blessed.

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on July 16, 2012:

Wow I've never thought about that before but it might happen since I live in AZ. I'd be very nervous to break someone else's window but if I thought the police wouldn't get there in time I'd have no choice. Great lens

grannysage on July 16, 2012:

I would do all those things. The adults better be running away from me! Great lens, sometimes we can't think of what to do when a crisis hits.

writerkath on July 16, 2012:

Oh wow... I can hardly even think about this! What a horrible sight to be faced with. I'd DEFINITELY call 911 if I had my phone. In fact, you've just given me a nudge to begin carrying my phone (I typically don't). This is an extremely important topic.

Gayle from McLaughlin on July 16, 2012:

This happened in our vicinity. This was a tragedy beyond compare. The mother was neither on drugs or brain impaired--simply a lapse in thought. Thank you for giving positive actions to take in an emergency situation.

daniela12 on July 16, 2012:

This is a great lens! Specially to people who don't know what to do when they confront this situation. They stay frozen and don't know what to do.

fullofshoes on July 16, 2012:

I would do exactly as you suggest. This just happened in Boston over the weekend and fortunately the baby was discovered before it was too late. For me it's better to take a chance and save a life than be worried about what comes after. I know that I'd be grateful if someone saved my baby. ~blessed~

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on July 16, 2012:

This is a problem in Florida where I live....How could someone be so preoccupied that they forget about their child? In the heat of Florida, it does not take long for a serious incident to happen....never understtod any parent who could be that ignorant

anonymous on July 16, 2012:

This is such an important article any day of the year and especially in this heat wave, there may be only moments to save a child from death or brain damage. YOu give us an action plan, so that if we happen on the situation of a baby or small chile trapped in a car, we don't have to do a lot of thinking but move on the information we've already processed. You also give valuable information to be prepared to give a passive response to an angry parent, the real emergency is over. Like you say, people do forget a sleeping baby and the one consequence no one wants to deal with is a dead baby. I already shouted on FB. Thank you for doing this important article.

dessertlover on July 16, 2012:

I would do the same thing if I noticed a baby in high distress all alone in a car. I think the guardian would most times be grateful - although a little sheepish.

Totus Mundus on July 16, 2012:

I would call the police, but thankfully I have never witnessed such an incident. Very nice, informative lens, thank you.

Genesis Davies from Guatemala on July 16, 2012:

I would definitely check the baby and either get help or break the window to get in. There is no excuse for letting a child die in a hot car if you can do something about it . . . I would happily pay for a new window if I had to, because it would be worth it to ensure that the baby was ok.

Childbirth_Educator on July 15, 2012:

I hope to never see such a thing, but you take a much gentler approach than I would.

psiloveyou1 on July 15, 2012:

Excellent lens! Fortunately, I have never been faced with this situation.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 15, 2012:

Call 911. I hope never to see this.

Onemargaret LM on July 15, 2012:

It should be necessary if parents took better care of their children! Makes me so mad when I hear about a child dying because of parents stupidity! Great lens!

Charlotte Green on July 15, 2012:

It would be awful for a parent to leave their baby in a car like this.thanks for your lens,

lbuben on July 14, 2012:

Hope I would never have to find out but calling 911 first would be key. Informative lenses and I agree with cc mushroom, would work for pets too.

victoriuh on July 12, 2012:

I would call 911 right away and then go from there. The experiment mentioned is interesting in that it was a "pleasant" neighborhood. What is if was a little more run down, would people be as willing to open a stranger's car? I wonder. Blessings!

SteveKaye on July 11, 2012:

I'd call the police. In our city they would arrive in about a minute. You might note that people who leave a child in a locked car might be arrested for neglect or endangerment.

Kerri Bee from Upstate, NY on July 11, 2012:

I saw that What Would You Do episode. I usually don't like the generalities that they cast on that show (when they do an experiment 10 times with a hundred different unfixed variables) and cast generalizations on whole populations (age, race, gender). This episode raised awareness of the issue, but I just hope if people hear a baby crying in a hot car they don't hesitate thinking it may just be a recording.

Morgannafay on July 10, 2012:

Ditto what the lady said about a locked pet too. I would call 911 and if the baby was in trouble break the window if the child is in trouble. Would be good for child services to get involved too. I'm not sure how it works but I think this would be the same as leaving them home alone.

Heidi from Benson, IL on July 10, 2012:

I'd probably call 911. Breaking a stranger's car window should be a last resort but I'd probably try if the baby is obviously in serious trouble and the car is locked.

Indigo Janson from UK on July 10, 2012:

I'd call emergency services, I think. I'd also be distressed if I saw a dog trapped in a hot car. People can act crazy these days if you go near their children so I'd try to get officials to deal with the situation if there was enough time. It's an important topic and good to get people thinking about how they could get the baby/animal out if there were no other sensible choices.

anonymous on July 09, 2012:

I'm not sure. I've never had to react to that type of situation. But I think I'd call 911 and only break the window if I could see that it was probably or definitely in trouble. But it's a difficult question as I've never encountered that situation before. Thanks for the lens!

Linda Pogue from Missouri on July 09, 2012:

I sincerely hope I never have to find out. Blessings on an informative lens.

ccmushroom on July 09, 2012:

A lot of these suggestions would also work for a pet locked in a hot car.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 09, 2012:

I'd call 911 and make a lot of noise in the area, hoping someone would find a parent or anyone with a key even faster than the emergency responders would get there. I'd do the same if it were a dog in a hot car. And, if it seemed really dire and couldn't wait another minute, I'd try to break the window.

Mickie Gee on July 09, 2012:

I would call 911.