Every summer we hear about tragic stories of children dying in hot cars. Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) is the unintended death of a child due to severe heat or heatstroke within an enclosed vehicle.
On average, 38 children die every year. Although it may seem crazy, there is a scientific explanation for most of these unfortunate deaths. 54%1 of children who die from hot cars were accidentally forgotten in their seats by a caregiver. Many of these caregivers probably suffered the consequences of Forgotten Baby Syndrome2: forgetting a child in the car because of a change in routine or absent-minded multitasking. This failure of the prospective memory system3 is heightened when parents or caregivers are sleep-deprived or have to change their daily routine. 26%1 of these tragic deaths occurred because young children somehow managed to sneak into vehicles on their own, and became trapped.
In order to reduce this yearly average, follow these tips to prevent hot car deaths & keep kids safe this summer!
Don’t Underestimate the Heat
Many people believe that it must be blistering outside for car temperatures to reach dangerous heights. In reality, a car’s interior temperature can climb over 100° F4 even when outside temperatures are only about 60° F. Contrary to popular belief, opening a window or two does not make enough of a difference to save a child.
Monitoring car temperature is important for children since their bodies are much more vulnerable to heatstroke and irreversible damage.
Combat Forgotten Baby Syndrome
Leave an important item in the back seats to create a habit of looking there before leaving your vehicle. Or, after placing a child in their seat, create a reminder for yourself, either electronically or physically. For example, you can leave one of your child’s items in the passenger seat as an indicator4 that he/she is still in the vehicle.
Finally, before locking your car, make an effort to check all the seats to make sure nobody is left behind.
Pay Attention to your Car
After all passengers exit the vehicle, lock the car to ensure that children will not accidentally end up in a dangerous situation. On hot days, also remember to crank up the AC, especially for a car with dark interiors that trap heat.
If you see a child trapped in a vehicle, do your best to help them escape. Carry a car escape tool, like the resqme® to easily break through windows and save a life! In many states1, there are laws in place to protect heroes against law suits when taking action to save a child from a hot car.
You can also support great organizations, such as Kids and Cars5 who work to report and reduce the number of deaths due to PVH.
As we look to the future, hopefully car manufacturers will begin to include more precautionary features to reduce the frequency of PVH deaths. In the meantime, remember to stay cool and keep your kids safe, both in and out of the car!