Heat danger: 500th child dies in a hot car

Consumer Reports News: June 03, 2011 03:03 PM

Since 1998 through just last week, 500 children have died after being left unintentionally in a hot car according to the child safety organization Kids and Cars and now that the warm weather is upon us that number is unfortunately, likely to rise.

In 2010, 49 children died from vehicular heat stroke, which was the highest number of fatalities in one year since the data has been tracked. To help prevent more tragedies in 2011, now is the time to educate parents and drivers on the dangers of leaving children unattended in a car especially during the warm summer months.

These tragedies can happen to anyone. A change in routine, stress, a sleeping baby in the back, can all contribute to a parent or caregiver forgetting to take their child out of a car. Some knowingly leave children in a car "just for a minute" not realizing how quickly the temperature in a car can rise to dangerous levels. Even on a 70 degree day, the inside temperature of a car can exceed 120 degrees even with windows partially open.

Statistics also show that these incidents occur more often with younger children--75 percent of those killed were under 2 years of age.

Here are some tips to help avoid these unnecessary deaths and keep your children safe.

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle (not even for a minute).
  • Check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading. If you lock the door with a key, rather than with a remote, it would force that one last look in the car before leaving it.
  • Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a reminder of a child in the backseat.
  • Place something in the backseat that you would need, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone.
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.
  • If you see a child alone in a car especially if they seem hot call, 911 to help get them out.

For additional information on keeping your children safe in and around motor vehicles, visit the Kids and Cars website and our special section on kids and car safety. Also read: "Hot cars: A deadly danger."

Liza Barth

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