While summer is the most dangerous time for children to be left in cars, the reality is that fatal heatstroke can happen at any time of the year. Last year was the most deadly year for children dying in hot cars in two decades, with more than fifty kids losing their lives. And, unfortunately, 2019 is already close behind according to the website NoHeatstroke.org.
While some incidents of fatal heatstroke are truly tragic accidents (when children accidentally trap themselves inside a vehicle without anyone knowing), many of them are completely preventable. According to data, over 50% of all vehicular heatstroke cases in the past two decades happen because an adult doesn’t remember that the child is in the car. Whether the child falls asleep and parents plan on coming back (and forget) or an adult falsely believes they have already taken the child to daycare or preschool, these accidents are becoming too common – and something needs to be done about it.
Below are a few ideas to help prevent children from dying in hot cars, whether they are your own or children in your community.
- Remember that children are curious. If a car is unlocked (either the doors or the trunk), there’s a chance they will get in. Once inside, it can be difficult for small children to know how to get out, which is the cause of more than 25% of all vehicle heatstroke deaths. Help save a child’s life by keeping your car locked at all times. (Even a 60-degree day can result in the inside of a car climbing to well over 100 degrees!)
- Never leave a child alone in a parked car. Even with the windows on your car rolled down and the air conditioning on, a parked car can get incredibly hot. And, knowing that a child’s body temperature rises up to 5x faster than an adult’s, a seemingly harmless situation can quickly turn dangerous. No matter how fast you think, you’ll be inside, always (always!) take your child with you.
- Do your best to not be distracted. Parents and adults today are overwhelmed, stressed, and increasingly distracted, which can be part of the reason why children are getting left in hot cars too often. Always put your children’s safety first by making sure that you’re paying attention to who’s in your car – and who’s getting out of it. Some experts recommend placing something, like your purse or phone, in the backseat to make sure you see your kids. Other strategies involve car seat monitors and apps that go off alerting you if a child is left in your car.
- Do something if you see a child alone in a car. Check on the child by trying to get their attention. If they don’t seem okay or are unresponsive, call 911 immediately. You are protected by the Good Samaritan law in most states if you break a window to help a child to safety. If the child seems to be doing okay, don’t walk away. Look for the parents or find a way to have them alerted (like via an in-store intercom).