Here’s how you can be proactive in preventing hot car deaths in children

Nearly 75% of children forgotten inside a vehicle are under the age of 2, experts say

Child in a car. (Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels.)

No one ever thinks it will happen to them.

But a record 53 children died of heatstroke between 2018 and 2019, after being left in a vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2020, during the public health emergency, 25 children lost their lives in hot cars, and in 2021, 23 children died.

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There have been a shocking 907 child hot-car deaths since 1998, the NHTSA said.

So with all this in mind, and as we’re coming up on the official start of summer, it’s the perfect time to be mindful of ways you can avoid a tragedy.

According to the NHTSA, more than half of hot car deaths are because someone has forgotten a child is in their vehicle.

Jan Null, who has been tracking vehicular heatstroke for more than two decades, said he has found several trends through the years:

  • Nearly half the time a child was forgotten, their caregiver had intended to drop the child off at day care or preschool.
  • The end of the work week -- Thursdays and Fridays -- is when the highest number of deaths occur.
  • Nearly 75% of children forgotten inside a vehicle are under the age of 2.

Repeat this phrase

Before we get to anything else, we think it’s important to repeat this phrase over and over to yourself, each time you exit your car, because if it becomes a repeated thing in your brain, it will be top of mind: Park. Look. Lock. And always ask yourself: “Where’s baby?”

Lock up

According to the NHTSA, the second-leading cause of vehicular heatstroke is children getting into unattended vehicles. Because of that, it’s important to keep you vehicle locked at all times, so as to keep your kids from finding their way into the vehicle and accidentally getting stuck in the hot car.

Leaving a child alone

Even if you’re running into the gas station for something quick, never knowingly leave a child alone in a vehicle, even if the windows are rolled down or the air conditioning is on.

The NTHSA says a child’s core temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.

When it’s just 70 degrees outside, a car’s temperature inside the vehicle can reach more than 115 degrees.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Be aware of your surroundings

If you see a child inside a vehicle alone, try to find out if the child is OK and responsive. If the child is not, call 911 immediately.

The NTHSA recommends the following, should you find a child alone inside a vehicle.

  • If the child appears to be OK, try to find the parents. If you are at a public place, have the facility page the car owner over an intercom system.
  • If the child seems to be in distress or is not responsive, try to get into the car to assist the child, even if that means breaking a window. Many states have “good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.

The bottom line is, these tragedies are often accidents, so knowing how to be more aware of not allowing that to happen to your child is the first step in preventing a tragedy.

About the Author

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.

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