Hot Car Deaths: How To Protect Our ChildrenChildren's Health
Last year, 23 children in the U.S. died from heatstroke after being left or trapped in a vehicle. The deaths last month in Florida of an 11-month-old baby and a three-year-old child brought to 12 the number of hot car deaths year-to-date.
Because we’d like to think of ourselves as responsible caregivers when it comes to the safety of our children, the tragedy of a hot car death seems unfathomable. Why we would never leave a child behind in a parked hot car. It’s utterly unthinkable.
“Most (53 percent) of all child hot car deaths occur because someone forgets a child in a car,” Julie says, citing data from Kids and Cars Safety, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of young children and pets in and around vehicles.
“Child hot car deaths and injuries are largely misunderstood by the general public, and most parents believe this would never happen to them,” Julie says. “In an overwhelming majority of these tragedies, a loving, responsible parent unknowingly left the child behind in the car.”
And, contrary to public opinion, very few cases involve drugs, alcohol, prior child protective services involvement or neglect, Julie adds.
100 percent preventable
Most importantly, pediatric vehicular heatstroke, a leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities among children, is 100 percent preventable.
“Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute,” Julie advises. “If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved and call 911 immediately. If the child appears to be in distress, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible, even if you have to break a window.”
Julie notes that many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.
If the child appears okay, try to locate the parents. If you’re at a public place, have the facility page the car owner over an intercom system.
Make sure your child is never left alone in a car
- Place the child’s diaper bag or item in the front passenger seat as a visual cue that the child is with you.
- Make it a habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure no one is left behind. To enforce this habit, place an item you can’t start your day without in the back seat (employee badge, laptop, phone, handbag, etc.).
- Ask your childcare provider to call you immediately if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
- Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle. Miscommunication can lead to thinking someone else removed the child.
Make sure children cannot get into a parked car
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway. Ask neighbors and visitors to do the same.
- Never leave car keys within reach of children.
- Use childproofing knob covers and door alarms to prevent children from exiting your home unnoticed.
- Teach children to honk the horn or turn on hazard lights if they become stuck inside a car.
- If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area carefully, even if they’re locked.