A total of eighteen children have died this year from heat stroke after being left alone in a car.
Unfortunately, this is not an alarming new trend. Since 1998, at least 600 children across the United States have died when they were left unattended in a vehicle. A majority of these children were left accidently in the backseat by a distracted parent or caregiver, only to discover the child hours later, after it was too late. Other times the child found her way into a parked car and couldn’t get out on her own. As many as 18 percent of these deaths occurred after a parent knowingly left a child in a car.
But this isn’t an issue only in the Deep South, Arizona desert or other extreme heat areas— heat stroke deaths have been recorded in almost all 50 states throughout the entire year. Vehicles heat up quickly—as much as 19 degrees in 10 minutes—so a car can go from uncomfortable to dangerous in minutes, especially for young children whose body heat can spike up to 5 times faster than adults. Once their internal temperature hits 104 degrees, the major organs begin to shut down; when it reaches 107 degrees, the child could die. Reports show children have died in cars on days where the temperature was in the 70s.
Every one of these deaths is as tragic as it was preventable. To make sure it never happens to your child:
- Always lock car doors when parking to prevent a child from climbing in on her own.
- Never leave a child unattended in a car, even if you only plan on being gone for a few minutes. Not only is it dangerous, it’s actually illegal in some states, as this mother found out and reported on in a griping article.
- Get in the habit of placing an important item, like a cell phone, briefcase, wallet or purse, next to the child when buckling her in to her car seat. Soon you’ll start instinctively reaching in the back seat and putting the car seat in your direct line of sight before leaving the car, which can eliminate accidental leavings.
- Let babysitters, grandparents and other adults who may watch your child know that it is never OK to leave the child alone in a car.