Hot Weather Car Safety
By Patricia Bates, Child Life Educator
According to the National Safety Council, in 2018 a record number of children died as a result of being left in a hot car. Of those deaths, 25% occurred when children gained access to a car, but over 50% occurred when children were accidentally left in the car.
Each year, a number of children in the US die from being left in cars in warm weather. The temperature inside a parked car can soar 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and 50 degrees in an hour, even when the outside temperature is only in the 70s. Studies have found that “cracking” a window provides little to no relief from the heat.
One of the main issues with being left in a hot car is heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature reaches more than 104 degrees, damaging your heart, brain, kidneys, and muscles. It can lead to death. Children are at a higher risk for heatstroke because their body temperature heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s.
How Can This Happen?
For many people, it is hard to imagine how a child could be left accidentally in a car.
Often children or infants are forgotten when a routine has changed such as a different parent dropping the child off at daycare. Sometimes a parent is sleep-deprived or is experiencing high levels of stress. With high-profile vehicles like vans and SUVs, the car seat in the back may not be visible from the front seat, making it easier to forget that a child is there. Any of these situations can result in a tragedy.
- When your young child is in the back seat, set something important like your purse, device or briefcase in the back seat as well. When you retrieve this item, you will see a sleeping child who might have been forgotten.
- Set a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat whenever a child is in the back seat as a reminder that a child is also in the car.
- Invest in one of the new technology alert systems for your car.
- Ask your child care center or babysitter to call you if your child does not arrive at the usual time.
Other Safety Considerations
Never leave a child unattended in a car, even for a few minutes, at any time of the year. Children should not be allowed to play inside or around parked cars, and they should never have access to an open car trunk. Check the temperature of car seats, seat belts and door handles in a hot car. These have been known to cause burns.
Other basic car safety tips to keep in mind:
- Double check that everyone has left the vehicle when you arrive at your destination; be sure to take sleeping babies and children out of the car.
- Lock your car and make sure children don’t have access to car keys or remotes.
- Always look around the inside of the car before getting out.
- If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle call 911.
- Is a child is missing? Always check the car including the trunk.
Deaths caused by overheating in the car are preventable. By taking a little extra time to put safety tips into action, parents can avoid a tragic accident.