Whether the sun’s shining or just peeking through the clouds, as temperatures rise, so does the risk of car-related deaths in children. This is why you should never leave a child or a pet in a car for any amount of time.
According to NoHeatStroke.org, so far this year, there have already been six pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths. In 2022, there were 33 deaths, and in 2021, there were 23 deaths. In 2019, there was a record high of 53 heat stroke deaths in children.
Since 1988, there have been a recorded 942 child deaths by overheating in a car. That is an average of 38 per year. During the summer, that equals about two per week. Of those deaths, more than half are children under the age of two.
This is why groups like Carilion Children’s Safe Kids advise you to always check the back seat of your car.
Jill Drakeford, Carilion Children’s Safe Kids Coordinator, says, “In about ten minutes, your car can heat up to be about 15 to 20 degrees warmer than what it is outside. So, it is really dangerous even with the window cracked. People think, ‘Well, maybe if I leave the child in the car with the window cracked it will be okay,’ but it’s too hot. It is almost like that greenhouse effect.”
Drakeford says that there is Federal Regulation that would require any car made in and after 2025, to have a back door alarm. This is similar to your seat belt alarm. Any time you open that back seat door, an alarm will sound. This is to strictly prevent these tragedies.
Leaving a child in the car is something that most people think will never happen to them. However, with everyday stress, it is easy to make a mistake. Easy reminders you can set for yourself is leaving your wallet, purse or even your phone in the back seat with the child. This way you won’t forget to grab that item when you leave the car and you will remember your child.
Another trick you can use is to leave a stuffed animal in your car seat. “Every time you put the child in the vehicle, take that stuffed animal and put it in the front seat with you, so it is staring at you the entire time to remind you that the kids are in the back seat. So just things like that,” says Drakeford.
You can also set up reminders with your daycare provider. If your child hasn’t arrived by a certain time, have the daycare call you.
The biggest message that Drakeford wants everyone to know, is if you see a child left in a car, act right away. First call 9-1-1 and then act immediately because you never know how long a child has been left in the car. In the state of Virginia, there is a law that states you will never be prosecuted for getting a child out of a hot vehicle.