Why More American Children are Dying in Cars

In the United States, the number of young children being left in hot cars, leading to their deaths, is alarmingly high. The heatwave of summertime temperatures, a lack of awareness, and child safety regulations that haven’t caught up with modern safety technology, all contribute to the rise in fatalities. This tragic trend is a wake-up call to parents and care-givers to be vigilant in order to prevent any further deaths in the future.

Understanding Why and How the Deaths Occur

Hot cars can become dangerously hot in extremely short amounts of time. On a day with an outside temperature of 72°F, the temperature inside a car can climb to 116°F in an hour, and as high as 140°F in two hours. When temperatures increase above 104°F, children’s bodies can become overwhelmed and unable to regulate their body temperature, leading to heatstroke, organ failure, and death.

The two most common factors in deaths caused by children being left in cars are memory lapse, and parents neglecting to recognize the danger. There is no one single cause for these tragedies, but one factor seems to remain consistent: parental distraction. In many instances parents do remember that they transported the child, but they simply got distracted and didn’t take their child out of the car when they arrived at their destination.

Generally, these are not intentional acts, but it makes the problem no less preventable. With the right understanding of the dangers involved and some easy steps taken to prevent it, these tragedies can be avoided.

What Parents and Caregivers Can Do to Prevent Tragedies

Despite the heartbreaking cases of these tragedies, there are a few things that parents and caregivers can do to protect their children from becoming another statistic.

  1. Always Check the Back Seat: Before leaving your car after you arrive at your destination, always open the back door and make sure that there is no child inside. This is especially important if you have a preoccupied baby of toddler that is prone to sleeping for long periods. It might feel tedious at times, but remember that it could be a lifesaver.

  2. Always Have a Car Seat Reminder System: The most surefire way to make sure that your child doesn’t get left in the car is to establish a simple car seat reminder system. This system can involve a teddy bear that goes in the car seat with the baby when you leave your home, or a simple keychain that you attach to your wrist so that you can make sure you don’t leave your car without your child. It can even involve having someone else call to make sure that you drop your baby at their destination once you arrive.

  3. Create a Required Stop: Establishing a required stop on your way to work or school every morning can help cue you into the fact that you may still have your child in the backseat. This can be a stop at the gas station, a drive-thru, or a stop at a friend or co-worker’s house. Whatever your stop is, it will remind you of your child the second you pull over.

  4. Install an In-Car Sensor System: You can have an alarm system installed in your car to alert you when you leave the vehicle that there is still a child in a car seat. These systems can connect to your smartphone and will sound an alarm when you are a safe distance away from the car.

  5. Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car: Always remember that it is never safe to leave a child unattended in a car. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should never be left alone in a car for any amount of time, even for just a few minutes.

  6. Know the Signs of Heatstroke: It’s important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs of heatstroke. These include a lack of sweating, nausea and vomiting, fast breathing, confusion, dizziness, and a deep red or purple skin rash. If you believe that a child is suffering from heatstroke, call 911 immediately.

  7. Use a Child Safety Seat: It is recommended that infants under 1 year old and children up to at least 4 years old (or until they weigh 40 pounds) sit in a rear-facing child safety seat. Even on the hottest days, this can provide critical protection.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to children dying in cars, prevention is key. By understanding why and how these deaths occur, and taking action to reduce the risk, American parents and care-takers can make sure that these tragedies stop occurring in our communities. Whether it’s a required stop, an in-car sensor system, or simply ensuring you always check the back seat, a few easy steps can be taken to prevent any more deaths in the future.