AAA: Risk remains high for hot car deaths

In 2018, there were a record setting 53 hot car deaths. Last year, there were 52.
In 2018, there were a record setting 53 hot car deaths. Last year, there were 52.

As summer temperatures reach scorching highs, the inside of a hot car can become a death trap for children. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic may cause people to drive less and work from home more, AAA says the risk of hot car deaths remains high. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of vehicular not-in-traffic non-crash-related deaths for children under 14. Since 1998, an average of 39 children have died every year from heatstroke.

The majority of hot car deaths (54%) happen because someone forgets a child in a car. This often occurs when parents or caregivers forget to drop their child off at daycare, because they become distracted or are off their routine.

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However, these horrific tragedies do not just happen when a child is forgotten. The second leading cause (25%) of vehicular heatstroke deaths are when children get into unattended vehicles, either through an unlocked door or the trunk.

In 2018, there were a record setting 53 hot car deaths. Last year, there were 52. Earlier this year, a 4-year-old died of heat stroke after he left the home and climbed into the unoccupied vehicle, without his family noticing. 

“With so much more time being spent at home, due to the pandemic, AAA urges families to educate their children about the dangers of hot cars, and take necessary precautions to prevent a tragedy like this from happening,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group.  

Tips for Keeping Kids Out of Cars

  • Get in the habit of always locking your car doors and trunk, year-round.
  • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area. 
  • Keep car keys out of a child’s reach. 
  • If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.

Knowingly leaving a child is the third leading cause of vehicular heatstroke deaths. Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than adults. When the body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, the internal organs begin to shut down.

Tips for Drivers

  • Set an alarm on your phone to go off around the time you usually arrive to work to remind you to check the back seat.
  • Arrange for day care or school to check in if your child doesn’t show up as expected.
  • Leave your purse, phone or diaper bag in the back seat as a visual cue to check for your child before exiting.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When the child is with you, move it to the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the back.
  • Place a reminder sticker on your windshield, dashboard or driver’s side window —wherever you’ll notice it—to remind yourself.
  • Remove your kids from the car first and then worry about getting everything else out.
  • If you see a child or pet alone in the car, call 911 immediately and follow the instructions of emergency personnel. In some states, laws will protect citizens if they break into a vehicle to save a person or animal.

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