According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the United States, child vehicular heat stroke has caused the deaths of 44 children last year and at least 619 deaths in the past 17 years – an average of 38 deaths per year. Georgia has one of the higher rates of child vehicular heat stroke death incidents. The nonprofit safety organization Kids and Cars states that, in a parked car, the temperature can rise to 125 degrees in minutes, even with the windows slightly opened. In addition, children are particularly vulnerable since a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s.
There is a simple solution to eliminating child vehicular heat stroke death: by making sure children are not left in parked cars, especially with locked doors. Since more than half of these cases involved caregivers forgetting children in vehicles, the best method of prevention for community members who have children is to always check the backs of their vehicles when leaving.
Here are some helpful tips:
• Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle.
• Make “look before you lock” a routine when leaving your vehicle.
• Place something else important, such as purse or briefcase, in the back seat to ensure you always check the back seat before leaving.
• Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when the child is not in the vehicle. When the child is in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the passenger seat or somewhere visible as a visual reminder that the child is in the car.
• Never let children play around unattended vehicles. Keep keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
• If you see a child unattended in or near a vehicle, call 911.
• If you hear a child crying, always check where the child is and call 911.
Angela Chiang, B.S. and Shanti Bhatia, B.S.
(The writers, both members of the Medical College of Georgia Class of 2017, are scholars in the Children’s Summer Scholar Program at the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Prevention Center, Georgia Regents University.)