June 24, 2020

Don’t Leave Your Kids in Hot Cars

Mom and boy in minivanBy Tracey Gates, RN

June is National Car Safety Month, which is a good time to remind parents about the dangers of leaving children in cars when it’s hot outside. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 there were 52 hot car deaths and in 2018 a record 53 deaths. The first infant death in a car in 2020 occurred in April.

The NHTSA is the authority on this and has been keeping statistics on this for many years. Below is a summary of their recommendations for keeping children safe.

Know the Facts

According to the NHTSA:
• The temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees F, even when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees F.
• Nearly 75 percent of children who are forgotten and die are under 2 years old.
• 54 percent of hot car deaths happen because someone forgets a child in a car.
• About 46 percent of the time when a child was forgotten, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at a daycare or preschool.
• 25 percent of such deaths are children getting into unattended vehicles.
• Thursdays and Fridays have had the highest deaths.

Keeping Children Safe

Here’s what you can do to keep your child safe:
• Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on.
• Keep car keys out of a child’s reach.
• Get in the habit of always locking your car doors and trunk year-round.
• Get in the habit of always looking inside your car before locking the doors.
• Place a briefcase, purse or cellphone next to the child’s car seat so that you’ll always check the back seat before leaving the car.
• Keep a stuffed animal or another memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty. Move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
• Set a rule for your child care provider to have them call you if your child doesn’t arrive as scheduled.

If You See a Child Unattended in a Vehicle

If you see a child alone in a vehicle, make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately!

If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents. If at a public place, have the facility page the car owner.

If the child is not responsive and appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child—even if that means breaking a window. Many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.

Tracey Gates, RN, CEN, CPEN, is Course Coordinator/Trauma Program, and Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator with Trauma Services at Mission Health.

To learn more about services at Mission Children’s Hospital, visit missionchildrens.org.