Hot cars and kids are a dangerous combination. Recently in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a toddler died of heat stroke after his mom forgot to drop him off at daycare while driving to her job at a local hospital, then left him in the car during her 8-hour shift. In Delray Beach, Only a week prior, a Delray Beach area child died after becoming trapped in a car parked just outside his home.
While one might think that such risk to a child is even higher during the hotter summer months, the truth is that such tragedies happen throughout the year. A recent CNN story states that more than 36 kids die in hot cars every year. Yet in 2017, 43 young children died according to KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group dedicated to alerting the public to such dangers. 2018 is not far behind with 28 children losing their lives in hot cars since January, putting it on track to be the most deadly year on record for such deaths.
How are we reaching such statistics so quickly? The increase could be because many parents don’t realize how easy it is for a child to succumb inside a car even when outside temperatures seem mild. Vehicular heatstroke can occur when the child’s core body temperature reaches just 104 degrees according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—that’s just 5.4 degrees above the average body temperature. Cellular damage begins to occur within 30 minutes or so of elevated internal temperatures and the ensuing physical response can damage the kidneys, heart and brain in a systematic effort to cool down the body. Consider that a car’s interior temp can top out at 130 degrees or more when parked in direct sunlight on a day registering only 80 degrees on the thermometer, and you can understand why it’s never a good idea to leave a child in a car for any amount of time.
Currently, only 19 states have laws making it illegal to leave a child unattended in a parked vehicle, while another 26 enforce less specific “hot car” laws. In Florida it’s actually permissible for periods of 15 minutes or less—something some lawmakers are pushing to change. State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton hopes to introduce a bill that would make that time period zero. “It’s incredibly hot… it makes no sense to arbitrarily put 15 minutes there,” she recently stated.
Regardless of your area’s laws, KidsandCars.org urges all parents to follow the “Look before You Lock” safety checklist:
- After parking, open the rear door of your car every time to check for kids
- Place something you’ll need at your destination in the backseat—your phone, purse, or even your shoe
- Ask a caregiver or the day care center to call you if the child has not arrived as scheduled
- Routinely keep a stuffed animal in your baby’s car seat which moves to the front passenger seat as a reminder when your baby is in the car