Children in Hot Cars – How to Keep Them Safe
With summer weather already here, many organizations and law enforcement officials are reminding parents about the dangers of leaving children in hot cars. Many loving, caring parents believe that they could never forget their children in cars; unfortunately, statistics prove otherwise.
According to www.kidsandcars.org, in over 55% of cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly “forgot” their child due to distractions such as a change in driver routine, stress, or a sleeping baby in the back seat. In approximately 28% of cases, children got in on their own, and 13% were intentionally left alone by the driver to run an errand. Children in rear-facing car seats are particularly at risk since they do not appear different to the driver as to whether they are occupied or empty.
A total of 755 children have died due to vehicular heat stroke since 1998. The average number of child vehicular heat-related deaths is 37 per year, or one every nine days. Six months into 2018, nine deaths have already been reported. Aside from crashes, heatstroke is the leading cause of death in vehicles for children 14 years old and younger.
Children are at great risk for heat stroke as a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s. Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees; the internal organs start to shut down. When it reaches 107 degrees it is usually fatal.
Danger in Just Minutes
According to Jan Null, CCM, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University, http://noheatstroke.org, the temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes. Two-thirds of the heating occurs within the first 20 minutes. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes. Cracking the windows does not help slow the heating process OR decrease the maximum temperature. Parking a vehicle in the shade has no effect on reducing the temperature in the vehicle.
Heatstroke does not only occur during the summertime or in the Sun Belt States. This deadly issue can occur at any time of year, in any weather condition, in any community—for any parent.
Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Light pouring through the windows of the car stays within the car and cracking a window does little or nothing to let heat escape.
Currently only 19 states in the US have laws on the books that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, but each state law is different. The penalties range from verbal warnings to second degree manslaughter. Is your state one of them? https://www.kidsandcars.org/resources/state-laws/
Look Before You Lock: No Child Left Behind
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Heatstroke Kills: Look Before You Lock campaign is one way to help people remember their children in the back seat.
Here are more tips to help avert a heartbreaking catastrophe and make sure no child is left behind in a vehicle.
- Never leave your child in a parked car or in and around cars. Never. Not even for a minute (even with the windows partially open).
- Get in the habit of always of opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving your vehicle. Make sure no child has been left behind.
- Place something in the backseat that you would need, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every single time you park.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children. Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check the pool, inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own but may not be able to unlock them.
- Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. Every minute counts.
For additional information on keeping your children safe in and around motor vehicles, visit the Kids and Cars website. Look Before You Lock campaign flyers and information can be found at https://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/get-materials/child-safety/heatstroke-prevention.