Every summer we hear the heart-breaking story of a child’s death in a hot car. According to nonprofit child safety organization Kids and Cars, 19 children have died due to heat stroke in a hot car this summer alone.
Before you stop reading and tell yourself you’re a “good parent” and something like this could never happen to you or your family, consider this: Kids and Cars says the most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think it cannot happen to them.
In more than 50% of the cases Kids and Cars has tracked over the past decade, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left them in the vehicle. It happens to the most loving, protective parents. It has happened to a teacher, pediatrician, dentist, postal clerk, social worker, police officer, nurse, clergyman, electrician, accountant, soldier, assistant principal and even a rocket scientist. It can happen to anyone.
Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80 degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.
Safety Tips from Kids and Cars and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
- Put something you’ll need (like your cell phone, purse, an employee ID badge, etc.) on the floor in the back seat. Get in the habit of getting out of the car and opening the back door to grab this item, it’s a great reminder to look in the car seat before you lock your car.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When your child is in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that any time the stuffed animal is up front you know your child is in the back seat.
- Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled.
- If you have to change your routine and you and your partner are swapping pick-up and/or drop-off duties, call each other to confirm everything went according to the new plan.
- Make sure all child passengers have left the vehicle after it is parked.
- When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.
In more than 30% of the cases Kids and Cars has tracked, the child got into the vehicle on his or her own and became trapped. Even if you don’t have children:
- Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway.
- Keys and/or remote openers should never be left within reach of children.