Each time we hear of another child being left in a car only to lose their short life to heat stroke, we find ourselves asking, “How could this have happened?” Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than we think. The biggest mistake people make is thinking they would never do such a thing. However, statistics show that in 55% of all cases of children being left unattended in a vehicle, the person responsible was a loving parent who unknowingly put the child in harm’s way. People live by routines and formed habits. Often in these cases, parents were not only under the influence of physical, mental, or emotional stress, but also had to complete a task that wasn’t normally in their routine. Many parents today fit that description, so yes, it can happen.
We usually are more aware of heat build up inside a vehicle during the summer months. In actuality, a child can die from vehicular heat stroke in as low as 60° weather. People often assume by lowering the windows, the temperature inside will not increase. Research proves otherwise. In the first 10 minutes alone, a car’s inside temperature can increase by 80%. The inside of a car can heat up to 125° F in a matter of minutes. To make matters worse, a child’s body can heat up 3-5 times faster than an adults. Mix that with a rear facing car seat that holds a quiet sleeping infant and a parent who is running on little sleep, and you have a formula for disaster. Deaths occur in infants one year of age or younger in 55% of vehicular heat stroke cases. There are also deaths that are attributed to young children climbing inside an unlocked vehicle while playing and falling asleep in 28% of these cases.
In today’s economy with many households having both parents working and all the stressors that go along with multiple schedules, parents need only take a few extra precautions to ensure the safety of their children.
What can parents do to prevent their child from being the next statistic? Here are some tips from KidsandCars.org:
- Make it into a habit to always check the back seat before leaving the car parked.
- Start new habits to remind you to check the back seat-a)leave purse, cell phone, briefcase, etc. in the back seat, b) place a large stuffed animal in the car seat when baby is not in it, so when using a rear facing car seat, if you don’t see the stuffed animal you know the baby is in the seat.
- Make sure you have a policy with your daycare that if baby does not show up to daycare at the usual time, and you have not called them telling them that the child will be absent, they will call you and check in.
- Always lock your vehicles when at home after unloading.
- Put car keys and remotes up out of child’s reach.
- Never leave a child alone near a vehicle.
- If a child goes missing, look immediately in trunks and in vehicle passenger compartments, even if the car is locked.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved and call 911. Help the child out of the vehicle if they are sick.
- Be extra mindful of where your children are during busy times of the year-holidays, family crisis events, etc.
- To save time, use drive thru services and pay at the pump when at gas stations.