Every year, children die from being left in hot cars. According to the nonprofit safety group Kids and Cars, more than 600 US children have died from overheating in a parked vehicle since 1990.
A news release by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach reports most of these deaths happen as parents unintentionally leave a child in the backseat in a rear-facing car seat. The backseat is the safest place for children to travel, but this can lead to a child being out of a driver’s site. Changes from the normal routine – such as running late, someone different dropping the child off, new work routines or traffic detours – could potentially lead to the unthinkable happening.
The sun shining through car windows makes the car work like an oven. In just 10 minutes a car’s temperature can increase by 19 degrees – and it continues to rise as time goes on. Children are more at risk for heat-related illness than adults, because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and they have not fully developed the capacity to perspire like adults. As a result, this makes being locked in a warm car, even for a short time, potentially fatal.
The results of a recent survey published on SafeKids.org stated that 11 percent of parents admit to forgetting their child in a car. Most likely due to the change in routine, dads are nearly three times more likely than moms to leave a child in a parked car.
According to Malisa Rader, an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach family life program specialist, a simple reminder is to place something you will be needing in the back seat with your child – like a cell phone, purse, or laptop. Some safety groups urge parents to leave their left shoe in the backseat before driving – a clear reminder when getting out of the car that there is precious cargo in the backseat.
Rader also offers the following suggestions to reduce the risk of forgetting a sleeping child in the car:
– The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a “Look Before You Lock” campaign that reminds parents to make a habit of checking the backseat each and every time they exit the vehicle.
– Place a stuffed animal in the car seat when not in use. When placing the child in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to a visible location in the car – like a cup holder.
– Set your cell phone or calendar reminder to go off at the same time each day to remind you that the baby should have been dropped off at child care.
– If a different person than usual is completing the morning drop-off, have the person call you when leaving the child care program.
– Make an arrangement with your child’s caregiver that you will call by a certain time if your child will not be coming to child care, and that the caregiver will call you if your child does not arrive when expected.
Rader says creating multiple safety nets around transporting children will help to ensure safe arrivals. Become vigilant about looking in the vehicle before locking the door and always look in the backseat before walking away from the vehicle.
The complete news release can be viewed at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/set-system-prevent-tragic-heatstroke-accidents.