Hot car deaths down in pandemic; danger shifts to home, experts say

53 children died in hot cars last year

SAN ANTONIO – As summer temperatures rise, so does the risk of children dying in hot cars.

The latest tragedy came last week when an 11-month-old Virginia girl died after her father inadvertently left her in the family SUV, police said. She is the sixth child to die in a hot car this year.

Last year, 53 children became victims of hot car deaths, according to Kids and Cars.

Although the number is down dramatically as the pandemic squelches routines, child safety advocates say the risk is not. In some ways, it could even be greater.

The first child to die of heatstroke in a car this year was a 4-year-old boy who apparently sneaked outside his family’s home in April and got into the family car.

“Because everyone’s home more often than usual, parents need to make sure that their keys are always out of reach of little hands and that their vehicles are locked at all times,” said Emily Thomas, Ph.D., with Consumer Reports.

Another concern is that distancing restrictions and worries of contracting COVID-19 may tempt some parents to leave their children in the car while the parent goes inside to shop.

Research shows that even on an 86-degree day, it only takes about 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach a dangerous 105 degrees. Compounding the danger is that children’s bodies don’t sweat like adults’ bodies and heat up three to five times faster.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re parked in the shade or if you’ve left the window cracked or even if you think it’s not that hot,” Thomas said. “It affects them differently, and it’s never safe.”

Safety groups suggest caregivers place something they frequently need, such as their cell phone or purse, in the back seat. If a child is missing, they say the first places to look are swimming pools and cars, including the trunk.

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