On average, 37 kids die in hot cars every year in the United States, according to San Jose State University's Jan Null.
Incidents peak between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when between two and three kids die each week. In 2016, more than twice as many children died in hot cars (39) than all individuals who died in tornadoes across the country (17).
Null, a certified consulting meteorologist, has been tracking U.S. child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998. His research indicates more than half of kids die after a parent or guardian forgets them in a vehicle. This can happen to anyone at any time.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, parents often are stressed. Often, tragedies occur when schedules and routines are broken.
Null analyzes media reports and details the circumstances surrounding each case through
NoHeatstroke.org, a program supported by the National Safety Council. In cases of heatstroke deaths, his findings show:
- 87% of children who die are 3 years old or younger
- 54% are forgotten in a vehicle
- 28% are playing in an unattended vehicle
- 17% are intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult
In April 2017, a
1-year-old boy died after being left in a pickup truck. At that time, the temperature in Vestavia, AL, was just 68 degrees. What many don't know is cars and trucks heat up rapidly even on milder days and no matter the time of year.
The temperature inside a vehicle can rise by nearly 20 degrees in 10 minutes. Heatstroke occurs when a person's body temperature exceeds 104 degrees, according to
Hold on to Dear Life, a campaign of
Primary Children's Hospital. At 107 degrees, cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down. This can lead to death.
Young children are at risk because their
bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult's, according to a journal report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What You Can Do
To prevent tragedies, Safe Kids Worldwide produced an
ACT Now Toolkit that includes a printable tip sheet:
Everything you need to know to keep your kids safe from heatstroke. Here are five recommendations:
- Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute
- Keep your car locked when you are not in it so kids don't gain access
- Create reminders by putting something in the back seat next to your child, such as a briefcase, purse, cell phone or your left shoe
- If you see a child alone in a car, call 911
- Set a calendar reminder on your electronic device to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare; develop a plan so you will be alerted if your child is late or a no-show