As a parent, you want to keep your children safe when they’re in the car. But one of the hidden risks is for a child to be accidently, thoughtlessly left (or trapped) in a hot car. An average of 37 kids die from being in a hot car each year in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) partner in preventing this danger, San Jose University meteorologist Jan Null, who studies heatstroke cases. Not counting vehicle crashes, heatstroke is the leading cause of deaths in vehicles to children 14 years of age and younger. The clear majority of these needless deaths from 1998 through 2017 were a result of the child’s being “forgotten” in the vehicle by a caregiver. A shocking number – 27 percent – of small children died while playing in an unattended vehicle, and 18 percent were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult – most of them were “just running into a store to grab something,” intending to be “back in only a minute.’” Interior car temperatures can quickly rise to 120-140 degrees on sweltering summer days. Even on a mild day, with temperatures in the 70’s, temperatures inside a car can get above 100 F in as little as 10 or 15 minutes when it’s sunny. Leaving the windows partially rolled down gives parents and pet owners a false sense of security. It doesn’t help.
Technology Helps “Forgetful” ParentsThere are a couple of new tech devices which can help parents and other family members to remember that they have little ones in the back seat.
- Rear Seat Reminder: Available on several 2017 GM vehicles (with more to come). If a rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes of the vehicle being started, or is opened and closed while the vehicle is running, an alert sounds and a message is displayed on the instrument panel when the vehicle shuts off to remind the driver to check the rear seat.
- Car Seat Technology: This “aftermarket” technology uses a “smart” chest clip on your child’s car seat and a wireless receiver to generate a series of tones that remind the driver, within seconds of turning off the vehicle, that their child is in the rear seat.
A Checklist to Protect Your Children
- Look Before You Lock: Check the back seat every time you get out of the car before you lock it, even if your child isn’t with you. Make it a habit.
- Get your kids out of the car first; then unload the rest of your car.
- NEVER leave your child in a car, even for a minute, especially on hot, sunny days.
- Always lock your car and keep your keys secure so your kids can’t find them at home.
- Warn your kids about playing in the car – alone or with friends – without adult supervision.
- You probably have one already, but if you don’t, install a trunk release mechanism so kids won’t get trapped in the trunk.
- Make sure that childcare providers and daycare workers have a plan to ensure that your kids aren’t left in the daycare’s car or van. And ask them to share that plan with you.