Child deaths from hot cars soar - 6 tips to save your kids

Teresa Tanoos's picture
8 children deaths from hot cars reported last month
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Summer hasn't even officially arrived, but at least eight children have already died from heatstroke after being left or trapped in hot cars since last month, according to the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org.

Seven of those deaths occurred within a 16-day period in May. Most of the victims were babies and toddlers younger than 2 years of age. All of the children were left by a family member.

"The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that this could never happen to them, that they are not capable of inadvertently leaving their child behind," says Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit child safety organization working to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles.

More than 675 children have died in these preventable tragedies since the organization started tracking data.

“It has everything to do with our brains letting us down at the worst possible moment,” said Fennell.

According to police, the latest child death occurred this month in Florida when 2-year-old Hezekiah Brooks went missing on a 92-degree Sunday. The toddler was found four hours later on the floorboards of his grandfather's car with the windows rolled up.

Tragically, most of the eight children’s deaths were the result of otherwise responsible parents or caregivers failing to realize that kids were still in the cars.

On average, 38 children die each year after being left or trapped inside hot cars. And the death toll begins to climb in May, which typically averages four child deaths per month. Yet, several more deaths than average were reported last month.

Around 10 percent of the deaths occur in situations involving alcohol, drugs or outright neglect, according to Fennell. However, she added, the vast majority occur when otherwise well-meaning parents or caregivers get distracted from their normal routine – something that happens more easily when the temperature soars, resulting in the mistaken belief that they’ve left the child in a safe place.

It doesn’t take long for babies and children to succumb to the heat once they’re trapped inside cars, when temperatures soar quickly to lethal levels. For example, a heat study sponsored by General Motors found that it only took 10 minutes for the temperature inside a vehicle to rise by 20 degrees. Within 30 minutes, it can climb by a whopping 34 degrees.

Accordingly, even a relatively mild day of 70 degrees can quickly turn deadly – a sober warning for parents everywhere.

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And it gets more sobering…

According to pediatric emergency experts, it can take as little as 15 minutes in an overheated car for a child to suffer life-threatening brain or kidney injuries. Once their body temperature reaches 104 degrees, internal organs shut down – at 107 degrees, children die.

Fennell is an advocate of the “Look Before You Lock” BE SAFE campaign (see below), which urges everyone to open the back door of the car and check inside before walking away.

“This can happen to anybody,” she said, adding that this includes “the most loving, responsible and attentive parents."

To avoid such a devastating tragedy, KidsAndCars.org offers the following safety tips…

"Look Before You Lock" BE SAFE Tips (from KidsAndCars.org website):

Back seat - Put something in the back seat so you have to open the back door when leaving the vehicle - cell phone, employee badge, handbag, etc.

Every child should be correctly restrained in the back seat.

Stuffed animal - Move it from the car seat to the front seat to remind you when your baby is in the back seat.

Ask your babysitter or childcare provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn't arrived on time.

Focus on driving - Avoid cell phone calls and texting while driving.

Every time you park your vehicle open the back door to make sure no one has been left behind.

SOURCE: KidsAndCars.org, “May 2013 nearly doubles average number of child
heatstroke deaths in vehicles - 7 children die in hot cars in 4 states in 16-day period
”, published June 3, 2013.

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