ST. GEORGE – An 11-month-old girl discovered unresponsive Friday after being left in a hot vehicle in Hurricane was the 20th child under the age of 15 to die of vehicular-related heat stroke in the U.S. this year, according to incidents documented by KidsAndCars.org. As temperatures start to climb, the number of children who die in vehicles also starts to rise and according to the Kids and Cars website, vehicular heat stroke is largely misunderstood by the general public.
Today in Southern Utah: Baby dies after being left inside vehicle in high temperatures
“Nobody ever thinks something like this could happen to them, until it does,” Deborah Hersman, National Safety Council president and CEO, said. “Unfortunately, every summer, dozens of children die as a result of high temperatures inside of cars. These unintended mistakes can devastate families ….”
KidsAndCars.org has also noted an increase in the number of heat stroke deaths this year involving children who have entered unlocked vehicles on their own. On a national basis, for the past 20 years, approximately 30 percent of children die in hot cars when they get inside on their own.
While most parents think this could never happen to them or their family, children continue to lose their lives in hot cars. “Whether they are unknowingly left alone in a vehicle or somehow gain access on their own, parents and families across the country are forced to endure the worst tragedy imaginable,” Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, said.
Faster than you might imagine
It’s called hyperthermia or heat stroke and it can happen faster than one might imagine. In just ten minutes, a car’s temperature can increase by 19 degrees – and continues to rise. Children or animals left inside a vehicle quickly overheat, resulting in devastating injury, permanent brain damage or death.
Studies done by the Department of Earth & Climate Sciences show that these incidents can occur on days with relatively mild – 70 degrees – temperatures and that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly. Children overheat three to five times faster than adults. Even in 70 degree weather, a vehicle can reach a life-threatening temperature in just minutes.
Cracking the windows or using a window shield shade has little to no effect on maintaining a temperature inside the car that is safe for small children.
These tragedies can happen to anyone
The reality is that many of these deaths are a result of forgetfulness rather than neglect or poor judgment, occurring when distracted but otherwise responsible parents or caretakers inadvertently leave a child in the car – a horrible mistake through a tragic convergence of circumstances. A mistake of memory that delivers a lifelong sentence of guilt far greater than any a judge or jury could hand down.
Most parents would like to believe that they could never “forget” their child in a vehicle, but according to the Kids and Cars website, that is the most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make, thinking it cannot happen to them or their family.
“Over half of juvenile vehicular hyperthermia fatalities occur when a caregiver is somehow distracted and accidentally leaves a child in a vehicle,” Jan Null, a leading researcher on hot vehicles, children and heat stroke, said. “And in nearly half of these cases, the child was supposed to be dropped off at either childcare or preschool. These cases happen to parents, grandparents, siblings and child care providers. It is often a matter of a change of routine, where one person normally is responsible for a child and on a given day another person forgets they have the responsibility that day.”
Yet these tragedies are preventable
“Most parents try to take every precaution to childproof their homes, but unfortunately many parents do not realize the importance of childproofing their car,” Fennell said. “Vehicles should always be locked, even if they are in the garage or driveway. Also, parents should ensure that any inoperable vehicles that may be in their neighborhood are always locked so curious children cannot get inside.”
Safety Tips from KidsAndCars.org:
- Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute
- Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case on the floorboard in the backseat underneath the child’s car seat
- Look before you lock – Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat
- Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled
- Make sure all child passengers have left the vehicle after it is parked
- Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway
- Keys and remote openers should never be left within reach of children
- When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately
- Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays
- Use drive-thru services when available for things like restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners
- Use your debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump
- Statistics and charts specific to child vehicular heat stroke
- KidsAndCars.org’s petition to the White House calling for technology to stop children from being left in vehicles
- Ways to keep children safe in and around vehicles
- Baby dies after being left inside vehicle in high temperatures
- Did you forget something? Don’t make this deadly summertime mistake
- Drowning, leading cause of death in children under 5; what you should know
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