Don’t Leave Children in Hot Cars

This advice sounds like basic and common sense advice. But every year it happens over and over again. Of course, when spring arrives, this is when we see it.  But remember, that it isn’t always a forgetful parent or even a purposeful decision.  In some cases, children sneak into  cars or can be found playing a game.

I recently heard Kate Carr indicating that these types of deaths are, “…a totally preventable occurrence.”

I have to disagree even if only slightly.  Kate Carr is the President and Chief Executive of Safe Kids Worldwide and she and her company are trying to launch a new campaign to raise awareness about children dying as a result of being left inside cars during the spring and summer months. This campaign is a great thing.  Awareness is very important.

She is correct that for the most part, parents need to be mindful of leaving a child behind just to run inside to do a few errands.  This is the aspect of these deaths and injuries that are preventable.

But I also remember being at church and a mentally handicap child when missing. He was the son of a friend and mine. We went on a frantic search of streets, cars, inside the church building and around the neighborhood.  An hour later we found him inside someone else’s car.  The kid apparently had hidden from everyone in view and was playing around.  Luckily it wasn’t hot outside or the outcome could have been much worse.

Was this preventable???    Maybe!

Many recent cases involve families that don’t normal take their children to school or mistakenly forgot that they hadn’t dropped them off yet.  Sitting behind our computers, we think that this is a hard thing to do. But if they were sleeping, it really wouldn’t be that hard to forget.

Numbers that tract these types of deaths have indicated that more that 500 deaths have occurred since 1998.  The San Francisco State University keeps this data.  This means that more than 35 deaths occur every year.  July and August are the months that have the highest number of deaths. But May and June are also affected months.

Over half of the deaths occur when a child is mistakenly left in a vehicle. This happens by a caregiver or a parent.  In most cases they are rushed, distracted, or stressed about something.

The data also shows that almost 30% of cases occur when a child is playing around a vehicle, they call it unattended.  The child gets inside and becomes trapped.  Some of the cases, they become trapped in the trunk.

Less than 20% of the time, the child is left intentionally inside the vehicle while the parent goes shopping or some other activity.

The Temperature Rises Quickly

Once the child is inside the vehicle, the temperature can climb pretty quickly.   In a matter of 10 minutes, the temperature can climb 10 to 20 degrees.  In thirty minutes it can climb almost 40 degrees.   If the temperature outside is 70 degrees, within a half hour is could easily be around 90 or 100 degrees.

Cracking the window only minimally helps. And really, most people believe that it is no help at all.

The next issue is the children don’t sweat as an adult does. Sweating helps release heat.  Therefore the child’s body gets hotter quicker and can’t regulate itself.  When the body temperature of a child reaches 104 degrees, the body starts to have problems.

When the body temperature of a child reaches 107, death occurs.

So really, the child can become hotter quicker and can’t regulate it very well.

Close calls are bad as well.

The affect of death is apparent. But close calls and injury happen fifty times or more for every death. Dehydration, fatigue, and serious injury can occur on a close call alone.  Close call injuries can occur much quicker than you think.

Plan well.

The best thing possible is to plan well.  Get a routine of checking the back of the car, even if you know that no child is in a seat. The more you do this, the more likely it will be that you won’t forget.

If you have a daycare that you use.  Have them call you if your child isn’t there.  This doesn’t apply if you’ve called in your child sick. But, if they are expecting your child at a certain hour, they call twenty minutes later to see if you are running late.  This isn’t a perfect solution but it can be helpful.

Always place an item in the back seat. This forces you to look in the back seat to get your item. Let it be a bag of clothes, briefcase, cell phone or anything.

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