During the summer months, the temperatures begin to soar. One week we have rainy spring weather, and suddenly it’s sweltering. The dangers of these temperatures are fairly well understood when it comes to outdoor activities, such as sports and swimming. You know you need to wear sunscreen and stay shaded and hydrated. But do you know how dangerous the heat can be for our everyday transportation?
Last year over 50 children lost their lives to heatstroke while left or trapped in vehicles. It’s a terrible statistic that is much higher than it has been in years past. We’re not exactly sure why the number of child heatstroke deaths in cars is so much higher, but it’s clear that we need to raise awareness to prevent further deaths.
An important factor in child heatstroke deaths that any adults don’t realize is that our children’s little bodies struggle much more to regulate temperature. It has been shown that their temperature rises up to five times faster than an adult’s, which means they will feel the effects of heat stroke and dehydration long before you do. The trapped air and increased heat can make your car function like an oven. Add in a kid that is already warm and dehydrated from playing or swimming outside and it doesn’t take too long for a car to become deadly.
How it Happens
Many kids are left in a car with the windows down and/or the air conditioning running, or just left in a locked car for what would be a few minutes. Parents underestimate the temperature or the amount of time their errand will take. Chatting with another parent at the mailbox, or the child falling asleep and just napping in the driveway or garage can distort your perception of time and quickly put your child at risk, so don’t leave them alone in the car even for a few minutes.
Often, a child is forgotten in the backseat. Parents may forget that they decided to take the child with them to run an errand and not check for the quiet, sleeping child in the backseat. Parents can also forget to take their child to daycare or school if they get thrown off their routine and go straight to work without noticing their child is still with them. You can avoid this by getting into the habit of checking front and back seats every single time you get out of your car.
Finally, child car deaths can occur when a child climbs into a car or trunk unbeknownst to the parent. Kids may try to play in cars, or find the best spots for hide-and-seek, but it can be incredibly dangerous. Keep your cars shut and locked, and talk to your kids about car safety.
Heatstroke car deaths are tragic but preventable. Start practicing safe car habits around your children and neighborhood kids, and call 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a vehicle. If you or someone you know is involved in any kind of accident or injury due to negligence please call the Utah Law Firm of Flickinger Sutterfield and Boulton for assistance.