Kids in Cars: Summer Safety Tips to Avoid Heatstroke

Hot Car Death in Children Worse on Weekends

We hear the public service announcements every summer – Never leave your child alone in a hot car. But for some inexplicable reason, people still do not heed those warnings. At least 12 children in the U.S. have already died after being left alone in vehicles this year, and there’s no way to know how many close calls there have been.

On average, 38 children die annually after being stranded unattended in vehicles, according to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville. 53% of hot car deaths happen because children are “forgotten” by their parents or caregiver.

Other children suffer horrible deaths or injuries after climbing into an unlocked car unbeknownst to an adult, and yet others are intentionally left alone in cars. To prevent such tragedies, it is essential for people to develop strategies that will ensure that children always arrive at their destinations safely.

The Kentucky State Police recently told the Portsmouth Daily-Times that there have been no fatal heatstroke accidents from children being trapped in cars so far this year. But there have already been reports of incidents, including a Louisville mother who left her toddlers in her car on an 80-degree day while she got waxed in a salon. Police expect more such reports throughout the summer.

Temperatures Inside Vehicles Increase Faster Than Many Think

People underestimate how quickly a car’s temperature can become deadly. When temperatures outside are in the low 80s, a vehicle’s temperature can reach dangerous levels in just 10 minutes. But days don’t have to be blisteringly hot for heatstroke to occur. Even when outdoor temperatures are in the 60s, the interior of a car can easily reach 110 degrees.

Children’s bodies are not mature enough to regulate temperature very well. They heat up three to five times faster than adults, making them especially vulnerable to hyperthermia and heatstroke. When their internal temperature hits 107, they die.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature
  • Dry skin or lack of sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle cramps

How to Keep Your Children Safe from Heatstroke

We live in a busy world. Our lives are hectic. But our children come first. Even if you think leaving your child in a car could never happen to you, don’t take the risk. Follow some of these tips to protect your child from heatstroke-related injuries or death.

  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows cracked or the air conditioning on.
  • Make a habit of opening the back door of the car before you leave it.
  • Set an alarm on your cell phone; put a note on the dashboard, or keep a child’s toy in sight as a reminder that your child is with you. This is especially important if you are not the one typically transporting your child from place to place.
  • Put your purse, gym bag, or other essential items on the floorboard in the back seat so that you must go back to retrieve it before locking up your car.
  • Always lock your car so that a child cannot climb in while you are unaware.
  • Store all car keys out of reach.
  • Ask a childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up as expected.
  • If you see a child left alone in a car, get involved immediately. Call 911. If the child looks sick or is unconscious, get the child out of the car, even if it means breaking a window.

Bryan’s Law

In 1999, a Kentucky toddler named Bryan Puckett died after being left in a car for two hours by his babysitter. The state later enacted Bryan’s Law, which states that a person could be charged with second-degree manslaughter or first-degree wanton endangerment for leaving a child under 8 in a car when the circumstances pose the risk of death.

It’s summer – a time when many families hit the roads for vacations. The Becker Law Office urges you to adopt safety practices now so that heatstroke doesn’t claim the life of your child or someone you love.