According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are cause by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 29% are from a child getting into a hot car on his own.
Children left too long in hot cars can have deadly results – and these deaths are preventable.
Here are some helpful tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
• Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child’s body temperature can heat up three to five times faster than adults. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees, and 107 degrees is lethal.
Heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can become deadly in just 10 minutes. Rolling down a window does little to keep a car cool.
Heatstroke fatalities have occurred even in vehicles parked in the shade when the air temperatures were 80 degrees or less.
• If dropping a child off is not part of your normal routine, then come up with a way to remind yourself that the child is in the car. Place an item that you keep on you, like a briefcase or purse, or even a shoe, in the back seat next to the child.
Other helpful reminders might be to have your daycare call you if your child doesn’t show up.
Write a note and place it on the dashboard of the car. Or set a reminder on your cell phone or calendar. You can also download the Baby Reminder App for iPhones.
• Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk and keep the keys out of a child’s reach. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk. Teach kids that a vehicle is not a play area.
• The same rules apply for your pets. Never leave your pet in a parked car. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paw pads.
If you see a dog in a car and in distress, take down the car’s color, model, make and license plate number and have the owner paged if you believe they are in a nearby store or business or you can contact the police.
Remember – for kids and for pets – look before you lock!
Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.