Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars
Every summer, heartbreaking and preventable deaths happen when children are left alone in hot cars. Some of these tragic accidents are due to forgetfulness, a change in routine or a quick errand that turns out to be longer than anticipated. Within minutes, they can be in danger. A child left in a hot car can die of heat stroke very quickly. But this tragedy can be prevented.
For Their Safety, Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car
Tragically, we continue to bear witness to hot car deaths here in California and throughout the country. Despite a concerted effort to raise awareness about the serious dangers of leaving children in hot cars, it still happens at an alarming rate. In fact, since 1990, 836 children have died from heatstroke after being accidentally left in cars. That makes it the second-most common cause of nontraffic child fatalities from vehicles, behind accidental backovers. These numbers indicate just what a serious problem.
Facts About Child Deaths in Hot Cars:
- Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths in children under 15
- Heat stroke happens when the body is not able to cool itself quickly enough
- A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s does
- When left in a hot car, a child’s major organs begin to shut down when body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (F)
- A child can die when body temperature reaches 107 degrees F
- In just 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees F
- Cracking a window does little to keep it cool once the car is turned off
- Heat stroke can happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees F
- Hot days can happen throughout the year
Preventing Hot Car Deaths
The last thing we want to hear is that another child has died of heatstroke due to being left in a hot car. The majority of these deaths occur when the adult forgets the child is in the back seat, but this too can be remedied. Here are a few tips for preventing hot car deaths:
- Always check the back seat and make sure all children are out of the car
- Avoid distractions while driving, especially cell phone use
- Be extra alert when there is a change in your routine, like if you do not normally take your child in the morning
- Put your cell phone, bag, or purse in the back seat
- If someone else is driving your child, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely
- Keep your car locked when it is parked to prevent a curious child from “playing” in the car
- Make sure children do not have easy access to your car keys
- Teach children that cars are not safe places to play
- Remind children that cars, especially car trunks, should not be used for games like hide-and-seek
- Keep rear fold-down seats closed to prevent a child from crawling into the trunk from inside the car
Take Action if You See a Child Alone in a Car:
Protecting children is everyone’s business! If you see an unattended child in a car and are concerned, you should immediately call 911.
If the child is unresponsive or is in pain, immediately:
- Call 911
- Get the child out of the car
- Spray the child with cool water (but not ice)
If the child is responsive:
- Stay with the child until help arrives
- Have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them
H.R.3593, The federal Hot Cars Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate in July 2019 to prevent heatstroke deaths in cars.
What H.R.3593 Does
The HOT CARS Act of 2019 would require the Transportation Department to mandate all new motor vehicles have a “child safety alert system.” This would work similarly to existing seat belt alerts, with flashing symbols and warning sounds in the driver’s line of sight by the speedometer.
The full name is the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act.
The House version [H.R. 2801] was introduced last June by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH13). The Senate version [S. 1666] was introduced last July by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
If your child has been left in a hot car, call 911 immediately. If you notice a child in the backseat of a vehicle that is unattended, stay present and wait for authorities. Use your best judgment in these situations. Child hot car deaths are tragic but avoidable. In the event your child was left in a hot car by a caretaker, please contact Duque Law Personal Injury Attorneys at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.