Three-year-old dies after being found in hot car. Kentucky toddler dies in hot car. Four-year-old tragically dies inside hot car…these are all headlines from the past month. Since July 22nd there have been thirteen known heatstroke deaths in the United States. The oldest victim was four years old, the youngest, ten months. The pandemic has kept these deaths lower than years before, but it’s still thirteen too many.
The leading cause of heatstroke car deaths is someone forgetting a child in the car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urges people to Park, Look, Lock. Meaning, making it routine to check the front and back of your vehicle before locking up and walking away. Or get in the habit of asking yourself, “Where’s Baby?”
Some other tips from the NHTSA for parents and caregivers include:
- Ask your childcare provider to call if your child doesn’t show up for care as expected.
- Place a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat, as another reminder to look before you lock.
- Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.
These tragic deaths aren’t only caused by forgetful parents. Six of this year’s thirteen deaths were due to the child getting into the car on their own. Temperatures can rise 20 degrees in a matter of 10 minutes. So how does a parent or caregiver prevent this from happening? Here are some tips from AAA on how to keep kids out of your cars:
- Get in the habit of always locking your car doors and trunk, year-round.
- Never let children play in your vehicle. Teach them that a car is not a playground.
- Always keep car keys out of a child’s reach.
- If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
Knowingly leaving a child in the car has also resulted in hot car death – and the most preventable. It’s not okay to leave your child unattended in the car for any amount of time, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child’s body temperature rises faster than adults. Once their temperature gets to 104 degrees, the internal organs begin to shut down.
What if you see a child alone in a vehicle?
Even a bystander needs to protect children from hot car death. If you come across a child in a vehicle, the NHTSA gives the following advice:
- Ensure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911.
- If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents; if at a public place, have the car owner paged over the intercom system.
- Stay with the child until help arrives.
- If the child appears to be in distress or is not responsive, attempt to get them out of the car, even if that means breaking a window. Good Samaritan laws protect from lawsuits when helping a person in an emergency.
Heatstroke can occur in outside temperature as low as 60 degrees. Even the best parents and caregivers can forget a child in the back seat. Don’t forget our furry friends. Pets are also at risk when it comes to hot cars and heatstroke. Take no chances. Remember to Park, Look, and Lock or leave yourself a reminder in the front seat. Never knowingly leave or let your child play unattended in a vehicle. We all need to do our part to keep children healthy and safe and to avoid these preventable tragedies.