Barry Brickey, public education and information officer of the Kingsport Fire Department, issued a press release about the risk of childhood heatstroke death in parked vehicles: “This can happen to anyone at any time,” he wrote.
Even in mild temperatures, parked cars heat quickly. In April of last year, a 1-year-old boy died after being left unattended in a pickup, even though the outdoor temperature was just 68 degrees.
Even short absences by parents can lead to tragedy. In just 10 minutes, a vehicle’s temperature can rise by almost 20 degrees.
Heatstroke begins at a core body temperature of just 104 degrees, and irreversible organ damage and even death occur past 107. The clock ticks even faster for young kids; their body temperatures increase three to five times quicker than an adult’s.
Incidents of childhood heatstroke death peak between May and September. However, by staying informed about the risks, parents can make sure their children’s summers are safe, fun and cool.
The facts on childhood heatstroke death
According to San Jose University meteorologist Jan Null, on average 37 kids die every year in hot cars in the United States.
Null analyzed the cases of childhood heatstroke death reported on the National Safety Council’s website, NoHeatstroke.org. Of all American kids who die from heatstroke after being left in a parked vehicle:
● 87 percent are 3 years old or younger.
● 54 percent are forgotten in a vehicle.
● 27 percent are playing in an unattended vehicle.
● 18 percent are intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult.
These statistics show that very young children are especially at risk and that it’s unexpectedly common to forget a child. Luckily, there are many ways for parents and guardians to remind themselves to check the backseat.
What you can do:
Because childhood heatstroke death is so common, many organizations offer tips for keeping kids safe in warm weather. Safe Kids Worldwide’s ACT Now Toolkit, an online resource for preventing heatstroke, includes a printable tip sheet. Here are five of the organization’s recommendations:
● Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.
● Keep your car locked when you are not in it so kids don’t gain access.
● Create reminders by putting something in the back seat next to your child, such as a briefcase, purse, cell phone or your left shoe.
● If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
● Set a calendar reminder on your electronic device to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare; develop a plan so you will be alerted if your child is late or a no-show
Technology can help:
New automobile safety features come out every year. Since even parked cars can be dangerous, the National Safety Council provides information about technology that could help parents and guardians protect their kids:
● Rear Seat Reminder: Several GM vehicles offer this system, which reminds the driver to check the backseat if a rear door was opened and shut either a couple of minutes before the engine started or anytime when the car was running.
● Car Seat Technology: Various newer children’s car seats feature systems that remind the driver to check the backseat if a child is present.
● Driver’s Little Helper Sensor System: This sensor goes under the padding of a child’s car seat. The sensor, which is synced with an app, can be set to send various notifications after the car is stopped. If the user does not respond to the notifications, the app texts and emails preset emergency contacts.
● Waze: This is a traffic app similar to Google Maps or Apple Maps. It has a setting which, when enabled, reminds the user to check the backseat once the car reaches its destination.