Despite all the warnings, we are still reading about child fatalities and near-fatalities from being trapped in cars on hot days. The saddest part is that these tragedies are preventable. It's not just kids being left in vehicles by their caregivers. We all know that youngsters are natural explorers and like to pretend. A vehicle provides a wealth of possibilities for fertile minds, but self-locking doors and trunk lids accidentally closed can quickly turn playtime into a nightmare.
Here are some appalling statistics from the website Kids and Cars (www.kidsandcars.org): Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2015 (as of 7/20/15) - 10; Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2014 - 32; and Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2013 - 44. These figures do not include close calls.
Here are some safety tips for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers:
- Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop-off. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of their whereabouts.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
"It is never OK to leave kids or pets in a car -- even with the windows down,” says Christopher McStay, MD, an emergency room doctor and assistant professor of emergency medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center. “Your car is a greenhouse and temperatures can get exceedingly hot in an exceedingly short period of time."