With record temperatures in much of the country this summer, we want to remind you how critical the risk is to children when they are forgotten or left in a vehicle. To be clear, it is never safe, to leave a young child alone in a car for any length of time.

According to the National Safety Council, on average, 37 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. In both 2018 and 2019, 53 children died in hot cars. These are the deadliest years on record in the past 20 years.

Experts predict that these numbers will go up as climate change continues to impact weather patterns and we see more hot days.

How can we stop this tragedy from happening?

First, why does it happen?

  • Cars are hot! Every 10 minutes the heat can rise by 20 degrees! This can make your body temperature rise and cause heat stroke. Heat stroke is when a body’s temperature exceeds a normal 98.6F and reaches 104F or degrees or above. Heat stroke can cause your organs to shut down and become a true medical emergency!
  • Heat stroke can happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees F.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable because a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s does. When left in a hot car, a child’s major organs begin to shut down when their temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (F). A child can die when their body temperature heats up to 107 degrees.
  • People get distracted and sometimes forget a child is in the car. Cell phones are the number one cause of distractions. Another distraction is a change of routine or disruption of everyday activities. If you usually don’t drop your child off at daycare, you are probably not accustomed to having your child in the car, making it easier to forget.
  • Kids often think cars are a great place to play. They climb in and then are unable to out or fall asleep.

To prevent some of these things from happening we can

  • Remember, to never leave a young child alone in a car.
  • Get into the habit of always checking the car before we leave, to make sure nothing or no one is left behind. Perhaps leave your purse or wallet on the back seat to ensure that you look in that direction before exiting the vehicle.
  • Stay off our phones while driving, talk to our kids while they are in the car, sing songs or play funny word games.
  • Teach kids that cars are dangerous and not places to play.

If you see a child left alone in a car, call for help immediately! Yell that there is a child alone in a car to maybe get the attention of a parent who may be nearby. Call 911. Be ready to take extreme action by breaking a window if necessary. Medical help may be needed so stay with the child until help arrives.

Most important of all, keep in mind that people usually don’t intend to leave a child to suffer. Overworked, sleep-deprived and stressed parents and caregivers, have so much on their minds that it is possible to forget a child in the backseat, especially a quiet, sleeping one.