Never leave your child alone in a car
8 things you can do to prevent a tragedy
So far this year, 21 children have died in the United States as a result of being left in a hot car, according to the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science. The most recent case happened over the weekend in Dallas when a 3-year-old boy was reportedly left in a Honda Pilot in a church parking lot.
Last year, 24 kids died in the U.S. and from 1998 to present, 676 children have died.
“What’s heartbreaking is that this is a serious public health issue that is totally preventable,” said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “Every mom and dad out there must realize it can happen to you. Texas leads the nation in child heat-related car deaths.”
Parents may mistakenly think they can safely leave a child in a vehicle for a “quick” errand, but that’s simply not true. Temperatures inside the car can be 20 or more degrees hotter than the temperature outside, rising to dangerous levels in minutes. Unfortunately, it only takes a few minutes for tragedy to occur.
Safe Kids Worldwide says that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children.
“Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults,” Walraven said. “When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult. This could cause permanent injury or death.”
Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.
Safe Kids recommend the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy to your child or to a child you see left in a car:
- A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
- C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
- T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
It’s difficult to think that as parents, we could “forget” our children, but it happens each year with no exception to socioeconomic or education level. Often times, a change in routine, a distraction along the way, or the event a child falls quietly asleep, unseen, in the back seat, allows for a parent/caregiver to “forget” and leave a child in the car.
Here are some important tips to help prevent unintentional injury to your child:
- Dial 911 if you see an unattended child in a car. Sometimes, people don’t want to get involved or just assume the parents are on the way out. But as you read earlier, it doesn’t take long for a child to die in a hot car. If you see a child or children alone in a car without an adult, call 911 immediately.
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, even for 1 minute. Windows left slightly open will not affect rising temperatures in the car.
- Set safe habits: leave a cell phone, purse, briefcase, etc. in the back seat before driving, forcing you to always check the back seat and see a child is/is not back there.
- Program your cell phone and/or computer to remind you to drop off your child each day.
- Have a plan with your daycare provider to contact you within a few minutes of being late or absent. Let your daycare know that you want them to call you if you are late or you have not called in saying your child will not be in that day.
- Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
- Lock all car doors, even at home.
- If a child goes missing, always check the cars and trunks.
For more information
Every year children are rushed to the emergency room to be treated for car related injuries, many don't even involve traffic or another car. Some injuries occur without the car ever leaving the driveway. Click here for some of the top dangers to be aware of and the key things you can do to help make your car safer for your kids.