The risk of forgetting a child in the back seat of a car can increase if the parent or caregiver is really busy, distracted or if there is a change in the usual routine.
According to kidsandcars.org, “The most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think leaving a child alone in a vehicle could never happen to them or their family.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 51 heatstroke fatalities of children in 2018. These deaths could have been prevented. A child’s body heats up faster than an adult’s body, putting children at a higher risk of dying from heatstroke in a hot vehicle. Did you know that within 10 minutes, a car can heat up by 20 degrees, enough to kill a child left alone in a vehicle? This can occur even with a window cracked open. If a child’s core body temperature reaches 104 degrees, heatstroke begins. A core body temperature of 107 is lethal.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related death in children under 15. Symptoms of heatstroke include: hot, red, dry, skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; weakness; nausea; fainting; confusion; seizures; and losing consciousness.
You probably have heard the term “look before you lock” when it comes to making sure your children haven’t inadvertently been left in the car. Make it a habit to always check the back seat before locking your car. Avoid distractions while driving, especially cellphones. Remind yourself to remember the child by placing a purse, bag, cellphone or other item in the back seat; something that you will need when you reach your destination. Have your child care provider call if your child is more than 10 minutes late. Check to see if your child arrived safely if someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine is altered. Teach children that cars are not a safe place to play. Keep the doors and trunk locked when your car in not in use and the keys out of reach. This will help prevent kids from getting accidentally locked inside the car. Keep your children safe by teaching them to honk the horn if they become stuck in a car. Check the inside of your car, floorboards and trunk if your child comes up missing. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that “nearly 3 in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle.”
If you see a child alone in a car, immediately call 911. If the child is not responsive or in distress, get the child out of the car, move to a cool place, and drench the skin with cool water. Place ice bags on the armpits and groin areas. If the child is responsive stay until help arrives. Offer cool fluids if alert and able to drink. Working together we can ensure the safety of children. For more information, visit www.kidsandcars.org.