PARENTS

Dad Locks Himself In Hot Car To Send Life-Or-Death Message

07/11/2014 01:14 pm ET | Updated Jul 11, 2014

After seeing one alarming headline after another declaring that an infant or toddler had died after being left alone in a hot car, one North Carolina dad decided something needed to be done.

So, on a sweltering day in Raleigh, when temperatures soared to about 90 degrees, Terry Williams got into his car, rolled up the windows and switched off the air-conditioner.

"I want to know how it feels to be left in the car," Williams said to the camera, his face slicked with sweat.

He went on to lament the staggering number of children who die every year after being left in a hot car. "This is wrong, man. We go through this every year," he said in the clip.

"Don’t be the next fool on the damn news talking about [how] you left your kids in the backseat," he added later. "Share this message."

Uploaded to YouTube on June 20, Williams' so-called "hot car challenge" went viral this week, landing on Reddit and several media outlets.

So far, the response to Williams' video has been mixed.

"Definitely a great reminder and message to spread, but it isn't fair to call parents [who] have left children in cars 'fools,'" one YouTuber wrote after watching the clip.

As Huffington Post columnist Lisa Belkin reminded us in a blog post last year, it might be easy to judge the parents and caretakers who are accused of leaving their children alone in cars, but the truth behind each tragedy is often much more complicated.

"Calling the parents inhuman monsters might make us feel better, but it won’t save the next child. Recognizing they are human beings just might," she wrote.

Still, parents and caretakers shouldn't ignore Terry Williams' underlying message: Heatstroke can kill. Period.

According to public safety awareness website Kids and Cars, an average of 38 children die in the U.S. each year from heat-related deaths after being left inside motor vehicles. So far this year, 16 children have been reported dead after being trapped in hot cars.

Child safety expert Janice Williams told Minneapolis news outlet KMSP-TV that many people simply don't realize how quickly a car can heat up and become hazardous.

“Some parents intentionally leave their kids in the car because they are running a quick errand,” she said. “Too often, however, parents misjudge how long errands take. It only takes 10 to 20 minutes for a car to heat up to deadly temperatures.”

To demonstrate just how hot -- and dangerous -- it can get inside a parked car on a sweltering summer day, a North Texas police officer also posted a YouTube video recently which shows him sitting inside a parked vehicle.

"I didn't expect it to be so bad, because I'm getting in and out of my car all the time when it's hot, but right around the 15-minute mark it started hitting me," Cpl. Jessie Peterson told NBC 5 News of the experience.

Kids and Cars says that a child should simply never be left alone in or around a car. "Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind," the organization advises.

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