Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash-related fatalities among children. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, outside of car crashes, heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children in the United States. On average in this country, one child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle nearly every 10 days. Since 1998, nearly 800 children have died from vehicular heatstroke.
Heatstroke is a silent killer
Vehicle heatstroke occurs when a child is left unattended in a vehicle whose interior temperature climbs rapidly. Sadly, the child’s temperature immediately follows suit, rising in a quick and deadly manner. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the body’s thermoregulatory system is overwhelmed. A core body temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal, and the interior of a vehicle can often reach 120 degrees or more.
Summer is the most dangerous season, but even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees. And the heat-gain is rapid. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes. Unfortunately, even great parents can forget a child in the back seat, and this momentary forgetfulness has resulted in lifelong tragedies. Beyond forgetfulness, another potential hazard arises with caregivers who aren’t used to driving kids or whose routine suddenly changes.
Whether you’re a parent, caregiver or bystander who witnesses a child left in a car, it’s vitally important to understand children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults. Heat and forgetfulness are a deadly combination. When a child is locked in a car that is experiencing rapid heating, time is of the essence.
“In almost no time temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels, which creates a dangerous situation for children who are in a car unsupervised,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. “Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense for preventing these tragedies, but everyone in the community has a role to play.”
Forgetfulness can lead to lifelong regret
It is never okay to leave a child alone in or around a car for any reason. Telling yourself, “I’ll only do it this once; I won’t forget” is an invitation to tragedy. Move you children from their car seats into your house or apartment before you unload groceries or other items from the vehicle. It is all too easy to become distracted once you are at home. Additionally, never leave your kids in the car when you are going into a store or doing an errand. “I’ll only be a minute” might cross your mind, but the danger is too great.
For anyone who ever transports children in a vehicle it is critical to look before you lock. Make it a habit to check your car every time for children before you lock up and walk away.
At home keep your vehicle locked and make certain your keys are out of your children’s reach. Nearly three in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gets into a vehicle and becomes trapped. While it might seem impossible that this could happen, it does.
If you notice a child left alone in a car TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION! Protecting children is everyone’s business. You can learn what to do if you see a child alone in a car.