In the United States, about 37 children die each year in hot cars.
Few are left in the car intentionally.
About half are accidents. Parents who forgot that the child was still in the car.
Many of the deaths are kids who got into the car and couldn’t get out.
All are tragic.
Kids in Hot Cars
How can you forget a child in a car?
Especially a car that might heat up to the point that a child can quickly die inside?
Although many people find it unbelievable that it can happen, it happens just the same.
People, once they are out of their very rigid routine, forget to drop a child off at daycare or that their child is still in the car.
“On days when the ambient temperature was 72°F, we showed that the internal vehicle temperature can reach 117°F within 60 minutes, with 80% of the temperature rise occurring in the first 30 minutes.”
Catherine McLaren on Heat Stress From Enclosed Vehicles
And remember, it doesn’t even have to be that hot outside for a car to quickly heat up.
How Hot Car Deaths Happen
It’s easy to see how some hot car deaths happen.
These are the deaths that are borne out of parental negligence. The kids who are left in a car while their parents party or shop.
But then you have the story of the mom who forgot to drop off her 7-month-old – dad usually drops her off – and doesn’t notice that she is still in the car until she picks up her son at daycare after work.
Or the child forgotten in a car after a family returns home.
Some deaths occur at daycare – kids left on a bus or van.
And sometimes kids get trapped in a car that had been unlocked.
Reducing the Risk of Hot Car Deaths
To help reduce the risk of these tragic hot car deaths, it might help to:
- never leave your child alone in any vehicle, not even for a minute
- lock your car and secure the keys so that your kids can’t get into your car and play by themselves
- check the inside (after checking nearby bodies of water) of nearby vehicles, including their trunks, when a child goes missing
- make sure your daycare provider alerts you if your child doesn’t show up
- place reminders in the back seat with your child, so that even if you forget to drop off your child on the way to work, you will notice once you get to work and gather your things
- bring your kids inside the house before anything else, so that you are less likely to get distracted and forget them outside
- have a designated watcher if you have a lot of kids, especially if they are in multiple cars, to make sure everyone gets inside and no one is left in the car
- call 911 if you see a child alone in any vehicle and get them out as soon as possible if they are not responsive or they are in distress
- push for automakers to include standard devices in all cars to prevent hot car deaths
Most importantly, remember that it can happen to anyone, so be extra careful when you break your routine and always “look before you leave” or lock your car.
What To Know About Hot Car Deaths
Look before you lock and learn other way to reduce your child’s risk of a hot car death.
More About Hot Car Deaths
- Statistics on Hot Car Deaths
- Vehicle Heating Dynamics
- Heat Stroke Stories
- It Can Happen to Anyone: Dozens of Children Die Every Year in Hot Cars
- Take Action to Prevent Heatstroke
- Prevent Child Heatstroke in Cars
- Study – Heat Stress From Enclosed Vehicles: Moderate Ambient Temperatures Cause Significant Temperature Rise in Enclosed Vehicles
Last Updated on July 1, 2017 by Vincent Iannelli, MD
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