Every year, an average of 37 children die from being locked inside a hot car in the U.S. Since 1994, 804 children have died from heat-related illnesses in cars, according to Kids and Cars, an advocacy center that conducts research on car-related dangers surrounding children.
It’s heartbreaking—an unspeakable tragedy that could be avoided. When we hear stories of infants and toddlers dying in their car seats, while parents leave them unattended for hours, we think, “How could anyone possibly forget their child?”
Well, as crazy as it sounds, it happens. In approximately 55 percent of cases, the parent was unaware the child was in the vehicle. So maybe the question should be, “How can I prevent this from happening?”
According to Kids and Cars, forgetting there is a child in the back seat is more common that many realize. When you’re stressed or lost in thought, you tend to function in “automatic pilot.” If dropping a child off to daycare is out of your norm, and the child is quiet, you may forget.
Kids and Cars is hoping Congress will soon implement mandatory regulations in all America passenger cars. The Hot Cars Act of 2017 seeks to install visual and auditory cues in cars to signal to a parent when a child is in the backseat before the driver exits the vehicle.
Until that happens, there is plenty we can do to insure that our children remain safe. Regardless of the weather, there is so much that can go wrong that leaving a child alone in a car is never a good idea. They could accidentally put the car in drive, escape and get lost, hit or abducted, or get their fingers caught in the automatic window.
Here are safety tips for parents to consider:
•Don’t leave your child in a car, which can quickly heat up, especially on a hot, sunny day.
•Always lock your car and secure the keys so that your kids can’t get to them at home.
•Warn your kids about playing in the car by themselves without adult supervision.
•Install a trunk release mechanism, so that they can’t get trapped in the trunk.
•Make sure that child care providers and day care workers have a plan to ensure kids aren’t left in their cars or vans.
•Put a purse or briefcase in the back seat with your child so you’ll have to look behind you.
•Use reminder apps and sensor devices in addition to safety tips and common sense—not to replace them.
Having a child die in a car due to heat exhaustion is something that should never happen. And with a little preparation to keep you aware of your precious loved one’s whereabouts, it won’t.