According to KidsandCars.org, “On average, 37 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death.”
As the temperatures rise this summer, it is important to remember that no child or pet should be left in a car for any amount of time. Parents Magazine states that nearly 700 children have died in cars in the last 15 years.
Most people are quick to respond to any hot car death by saying that would never happen to them. They would never forget their child in a car. But the reality is it can happen to anyone. In 2015 an Arkansas Circuit Judge forgot his 18 month old son in the car and he died. If it can happen to him, it can happen to you.
“In most of these heart-breaking cases, the care giver or parent simply forgot the child was in the back seat,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “It usually happens when the adult’s daily routine is disrupted and they just don’t remember the child is back there.”
A study by General Motors shows it takes just 10 minutes for the temperature inside a sun-drenched vehicle to warm up by 19 degrees. In 30 minutes, it can rise as much as 34 degrees.
Young children and pets are especially susceptible to the heat because their bodies don’t have the same internal temperature control as an adult’s. In fact, for the most part, dogs and cats can’t even sweat.
It only takes around 20 minutes or less for a child in a hot car to lose consciousness and for bodily functions to be compromised. Heat stroke can happen at 104 degrees and 107 degrees is deadly.
I tested the temperature in my car, in my driveway, here in Skiatook. The temperature outside the car was 77 degrees. By the time 30 minutes had passed, the temperature in the car was 115 degrees. That can be fatal for any child or pet. On a hot summer day, temperatures can soar into the 160 degree range even with windows cracked.
Never leave a child or pet unattended in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are cracked or if the engine is running with the air conditioning on.
There are some steps you can take to ensure that you do not forget a child or a pet in the car.
1. Be extra alert if your routine changes. The risk of unintentionally leaving a child or pet in the car increases with a change in routine.
2. Put something of your child’s, like a toy, on the front seat. “It’s a good idea to keep a stuffed animal in your child car seat when it’s unoccupied,” said Mai. “And then move it to the front seat after securing your child as a visual reminder. Make sure you look before you lock whenever you get out of the car.”
3. Leave an item you’ll need at your next destination in the backseat, such as your cell phone, purse, or briefcase.
4. Place your child’s car seat in the middle of the backseat rather than behind the driver. That way, it’s easier to see her in your rearview mirror.
5. Discuss the topic of hot-car deaths with every person who drives your child anywhere. This includes partners, grandparents, babysitters, and friends.
6. Always “look before you lock.” Get in the habit of checking the backseat every time you get out of the car. Check even if you know your child is not with you. This will make looking before you lock part of your normal routine.
Finally, if you see any child in a car seat or a pet alone in a car, call 911.