It’s only mid-July and already 21 children under the age of five have died from heatstroke in parked cars across America.
Child safety advocacy groups urge parents and caregivers to take extra precautions this summer to help prevent child fatalities resulting from leaving kids unattended in hot parked cars.
Child vehicular heatstroke deaths - by state, 1998-2012
In the past decade, approximately 600 children have perished from hyperthermia, otherwise known as heatstroke.
Of the 21 deaths reported through July 17, 2013, 16 were under the age of two and seven were age one year and under. States with the most confirmed or probable child heatstroke deaths include: Florida (4), Texas (3), Virginia (3), Alabama (2), and one each in nine other states (California, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma and North Carolina).
Outside temperatures ranged from 76 degrees to over 100 degrees, but temperatures inside the vehicles often exceeded 125 degrees.
Child vehicular heatstroke deaths -1998-2013
How can such a tragedy happen? Here are the details of a few of these unfortunate child deaths:
- In Fresno, California, a 15-month-old infant boy died after being unintentionally left in a vehicle for an hour. The outside temperature was 101 degrees. Numerous other children had been in the vehicle when the family got out with groceries, thinking the infant boy was with his dad.
- In Miami, Florida, a woman was arrested in connection with the death of an 11-month-old baby boy left inside a vehicle for an undetermined amount of time. His body temperature had reached 109 degrees. The child was discovered after his father asked about his whereabouts and the mother recalled leaving him in the vehicle.
- In June, a 23-month-old Illinois boy died of suspected heatstroke after being forgotten by a parent and left in a hot car for about two hours.
- A 16-month-old girl died in Baltimore, Maryland after a male relative failed to drop the child off at daycare and left her in a pickup truck for four hours. He had gone home to sleep and later went to the daycare center to pick her up. On learning she was never dropped off, he ran back to the truck and found her inside.
It only takes a few seconds to thoroughly check a vehicle before leaving it, but those few seconds could ultimately mean the difference between a child’s life and death. Safety experts recommend the following precautions:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – not even for a minute.
- Anyone seeing a child left alone in a hot vehicle should immediately call 9-1-1.
- Make sure everyone leaves the vehicle when unloading. Pay special attention to children in car seats.
- Always keep car doors locked. Keep keys and remote access devices out of children’s reach.
- If a child is missing, check a pool first, then the car, including the trunk.
- Teach children that cars are not a play area.
- “Look before you leave” should be a routine when getting out of the car.
- Place a briefcase or purse in the backseat as a reminder to check the vehicle for children.
- Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when a child is in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a reminder.
- Put in place a plan that a childcare provider will call if the child does not show up as scheduled.
For more on heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles, click here to check out the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, which keeps track of these statistics.