An average of 37 children die each year because they’re left, usually accidentally, in a car. Don’t think it can’t happen to you – that’s what virtually all of the parents of child victims thought too.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other safety advocates have issued the following facts and safety tips regarding child heatstroke deaths:
Some key facts about heatstroke:
- Heatstroke is the leading cause of passenger vehicle non-crash fatalities for children 14 and younger.
- From 1998-2015, 661 children died due to heatstroke from being “forgotten” by a parent/caregiver; from the child playing in an unattended vehicle; or from the child being intentionally left in a vehicle.
- Children are at a higher risk than adults of dying from heatstroke in a hot vehicle, especially when they are too young to communicate.
- A child’s temperature heats up 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult’s.
Helpful tips to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:
- Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or air conditioning on. A core temperature of 107 degrees is lethal.
- Always look in the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking way.
- Heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.
- Never let children play in an unattended vehicle.
- Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk and keep the keys out of a child’s reach.
Is dropping off a child not part of your normal routine? Here are some ways to remind yourself that the child is in the car:
- Place a briefcase, purse, or cell phone in the back next to the car seat so that you’ll always check the back seat before leaving.
- Have Daycare call you if your child doesn’t show up.
- Write a note and place it on the dashboard. Or set a reminder on your cell phone or calendar. You can also download the Baby Reminder App for iPhones.
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle:
- If the child is not responsive or appears in great distress, attempt to get into the car, even if that means breaking a window. Call 911 immediately.
Remember – it can happen to anyone. Don’t take the chance. Look before you lock!
GARY WHITMAN, BSME, is Director of Crashworthiness at ARCCA where he specializes in the research, testing, design and development of occupant crash safety systems, including child safety seats. He has collaborated with the NHTSA re child restraint research, with the US Army re advanced occupant crash protection systems for ground vehicles, and with NIOSH re occupant crash protection for ambulance occupants.