This is a serious public health issue that is totally preventable when caregivers realize it CAN happen to them. Texas leads the nation in child heat-related car deaths.
Parents may mistakenly think they can safely leave a child in a vehicle for a “quick” errand. Temperatures inside the car can be 20 or more degrees hotter than the temperature outside, rising to dangerous levels in minutes. Unfortunately, it only takes a few minutes for tragedy to occur.
Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult. This could cause permanent injury or death.
Every year, an average of 38 children die after they were unattended in a vehicle. Some are left in vehicles intentionally, others unintentionally. It’s difficult to think that as parents, we could “forget” our children, but it happens each year with no exception to socioeconomic or education level. Often times, a change in routine, a distraction along the way, or the event a child falls quietly asleep, unseen, in the back seat, allows for a parent/caregiver to “forget” and leave a child in the car.
Here are some important tips to help prevent unintentional injury to your child:
- Dial 911 if you see an unattended child in a car.
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, even for 1 minute. Windows left slightly open will not affect rising temperatures in the car.
- Set safe habits: leave a cell phone, purse, briefcase, etc. in the back seat before driving, forcing you to always check the back seat and see a child is/is not back there.
- Program your cell phone and/or computer to remind you to drop off your child each day.
- Have a plan with your daycare provider to contact you within a few minutes of being late or absent.
- Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
- Lock all car doors, even at home.
- If a child goes missing, always check the cars and trunks first.