7 Ways to Prevent Childhood Death in Hot Cars

July 7th, 2021

It’s been a scorching start to summer in Bucks and Montgomery counties, and the temperature shows no signs of cooling down over the long term. Heat can be dangerous, especially for young children inside a hot car.

On a 90-degree day, the inside of a locked, uncooled car can reach as high as 110. Sadly, that’s hot enough to cause fatal heatstroke in young children. In 2018 and ‘19, a record 53 children died of pediatric vehicular heatstroke (PVH) after being trapped in a hot car. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 25 people lost their lives in hot cars, and seven children have died so far in 2021, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

“A child’s body temperature can rise three-to-five times faster than an adult’s,” says emergency medicine physician Michael Prasto, MD, with Grand View Emergency Professionals. While children ages 2 and under are most at risk, PVH deaths have occurred in children as old as age 14.

Since 1998, more than half of all PVH deaths resulted from caregivers mistakenly forgetting to take their child out of the car. “Make sure this doesn’t happen to you or your family,” says Marie Dieter, RN, Trauma Program Manager with Grand View Health. Follow these tips from the National Safety Council and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration:

1. Park, look and lock.

Whenever parking your vehicle, always look in both the front and back seats before you lock the door.

2. Put an often-used item alongside a baby’s car seat.

By setting a purse, cellphone or briefcase in the back seat next to baby, you’ll remember to always check the back seat—and check for baby—before leaving the car.

3. Use a stuffed animal or memento.

Place it in your child’s car seat while unattended. Then, when baby is in his or her car seat, move the memento to the front seat so you’ll remember baby is in the back.

4. Talk with your child’s caregiver.

Instruct them to call you immediately if your child doesn’t arrive as scheduled.

5. Never leave a child alone in a car.

It’s unsafe, even with the windows rolled down and the air-conditioning running.

6. Keep your car doors locked.

Roughly one-quarter of PVH deaths happen to children who get in the car on their own and accidentally lock themselves inside. Keep your car doors locked at all times to prevent this from occurring. Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and keep your car keys out of reach.

7. If you see a child alone in a car on a hot day, act quickly. If the child appears to be OK, attempt to locate the parents quickly. If the child is unresponsive, call 9-1-1 immediately. Attempt to get in the car, even if it means breaking a window.