7 Prevention Steps to Reduce Child Deaths from Hot Cars

Last updated on July 10th, 2017 at 02:18 pm

Thirty-eight children, on average, die each year from heat stroke after being left in or becoming trapped in a hot car, according to KidsandCars.org, a website dedicated to improving child safety around and in cars. Unfortunately, in 2010 the number of children who died was 49 and there have already been numerous deaths this year, only part of the way through the summer season. There are several steps parents can take to lower the risk of these preventable deaths and keep their children safe.

NEVER leave a child of any age alone in a car for any period of time. Too often a parent will think that they will “only be gone for a minute”. That short “minute” almost always turns into longer than the parent realizes and it only takes a few minutes for the temperature inside a car to dramatically increase by 20 or more degrees.

According to KidsandCars.org,

“A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. Even with the windows partially down, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degrees in just minutes. Leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature attained.”

Kids have a greater risk of heat stroke than adults partly because their skin surface area is greater in proportion to their body mass therefore they absorb more heat. Children also do not sweat as much as adults and start sweating at higher temperatures, which means they are not able to cool their bodies as quickly or as well as adults.

  • Develop the habit of always looking in the backseat when you get out of your car, before locking it.
  • Leave yourself a reminder. With the majority of children riding in the backseat, and especially with babies and toddlers riding in rear-facing car seats, it is important to have a reminder that the child is in the car with you. In over 50% of these deaths, a child was unintentionally left in the car. While some parents may believe they could never forget their child in a car, keep in mind, no one’s memory is perfect and it only takes a short lapse in memory, either from sleep deprivation, distraction, a change in your normal routine, or for any other reason, to accidentally forget a quiet or sleeping child is in the car. It is recommended to leave your purse, briefcase, cell phone, gym bag, or ID near the child’s car seat in the backseat so you will be reminded to look back there when you exit the car. Another idea is to keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When you put the child in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat or floorboard where you will notice it.
  • Consider investing in a child reminder or alert system. These devices work in a similar fashion as the sounds your car makes when you have left the key in the ignition or a seat belt reminder and other bells and whistles that alert you to a potential problem. Some systems that are on the market include:
  • If your child attends a daycare or has a babysitter, ask the caregiver to call you if the child does not arrive when expected. Sadly, many children have been accidentally left in cars simply because the parent forgot to drop off the child at daycare and instead went straight to work and the daycare or babysitter assumed the child just wasn’t coming that day and the parent must have forgot to tell them.
  • If your child will be transported by anyone other than you, ask the caregiver to use these tips and call and check on your child periodically, especially if the child is not in that person’s car very often. Grandparents, other relatives, and babysitters who do not transport a child every day are at a higher risk of accidentally forgetting a child is in the car with them.
  • Whenever possible, use drive-thru services so you do not have to get out of the car while running errands. Pay for fuel at the pump so you don’t have to leave the car.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times when no one is in it and keep keys and remote key fobs out of the reach of children. Teach kids never to play in a car, never to climb into a car trunk, and to never get in a car alone.

If you see a child who has been left in a car, take action immediately to help them. Call 911 if the child seems hot or is having any heat-related symptoms.

For more information, please visit KidsandCars.org.

About the Author

Tamara Walker, R.N., aka “MomRN”, is the mom of two teenagers, a registered nurse, a child safety expert and instructor, and host of the “Ask MomRN Show”. Her passions are to help parents as they navigate the journey through parenthood and to protect children of all ages. Her websites are http://www.MomRN.com and http://www.blogtalkradio.com/FlyLady.MomRN has been a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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