With summer approaching and temperatures around the country rising, parents and caregivers of young children need to be aware of the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car unattended. According to the National Safety Council, an average of 38 children die every year from heat stroke after being left in a vehicle unattended.2 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 910 children have died since 1998 due to being left in a hot vehicle.1 The most tragic thing about heatstroke deaths from hot vehicles is that these deaths are preventable.
Children are more vulnerable to heatstroke because their body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature is 104 degrees and a child could die when the body temperature reaches 107 degrees. Within just ten minutes the inside of a vehicle can increase in temperature by twenty degrees. 53% of hot car deaths have happened due to a person forgetting a child in the car. Follow these tips to help prevent hot car deaths.3
1. Make a Habit of Checking the Backseat
If you are going to be caring for a child, get in the habit of always checking the backseat before leaving your vehicle. Remember the motto, “Park, Look, Lock.” Place your personal items such as a bag or cell phone in the back seat so that you remember to look in the back before exiting your vehicle. Keep a favorite toy in the child’s car seat when they aren’t there, and move it to the front seat when they are there to give you a visual reminder to check the back seat.
2. Keep Cars Locked
In some circumstances, a child may wander into an unlocked vehicle to play and then get trapped. To prevent this, always keep your car locked and don’t let your children play in your vehicle.
3. Never Leave a Child Alone in a Vehicle
It is never okay to leave a child in a car unattended, even if the air conditioning is on or the windows are down. Kids are more susceptible to heatstroke because their body temperature rises quickly. Even if you are running into the store for just one item, you should always bring children with you.
4. See Something Say Something
If you see a child in a vehicle unattended, check to see if the child is responsive. If they are responsive try to locate the parents or caregivers quickly. If the child is unresponsive or you cannot find the parents, call 911 immediately and get the child out of the vehicle.
Children are more vulnerable to heat stroke and hot vehicle death. To prevent the dangerous effects of leaving a child in a hot car, make a habit of always checking the vehicle before exiting, keep vehicles locked when not in use, never leave a child alone in a vehicle, and always help a child who was left unattended in a car. To learn more, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
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