- Over 900 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in our country in the last 30 years. The most recent tragedy involved a 2-year-old in Florida who was left unattended in a hot daycare van on Monday. The boy was found unresponsive by an employee in the afternoon after someone forgot to take him out of the van during morning transport.
This heartbreaking accident comes only days after another tragedy in New York City last week, when 1-year-old twins were left in a car for eight hours after their father forgot to drop them off at daycare.
KidsandCars.org reports 26 children have died in hot cars so far in 2019. With the observation of National Heatstroke Prevention Day this week, safety advocates across the country are tirelessly working to spread awareness on why these tragic deaths keep occurring.
Most children who die in hot cars do not have negligent or cruel parents. These tragic accidents can happen to anyone when the conditions are right. It’s critical for all Connecticut parents to be aware of the risks of cars in the heat, and to learn about the tools available to prevent future hot car deaths from happening.
Why Hot Car Deaths Keep Happening
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.), more than half of all hot car deaths involve parents who forget their child is still in the car. Forty-four percent of these parents report they were on their way to drop a child off at daycare or preschool, and most occurred at the end of the work week.
Incidents where children climb into hot vehicles and trap themselves have also become a significant problem. At least 26 percent of hot car deaths involve children who unintentionally lock themselves in a car or are too little to get themselves out. Kids who play in the car may easily enter through an open door that could shut behind them, leaving them unable to push the door back open on their own.
Another 18 percent of hot car deaths includes parents who intentionally leave their children in the car. ‘Intentionally’ does not mean parents were trying to harm their children. Some of these parents may not have been aware of how quickly heatstroke can set in, taking long enough to run errands or load the car for their vehicle to reach fatal temperatures.
Fatal Heatstroke- It Doesn’t Take Long
Heatstroke begins when the body core temperatures hit 104. The N.H.T.S.A. reports that an average size car can heat up by 20 degrees in a matter of 10 minutes. On a day where temperatures are over 80 degrees, this can put the internal temperature of a vehicle quickly past 100.
Additionally, a child’s internal temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult. In the 15 minutes to would take for an adult to be severely uncomfortable in a hot car, a child could begin suffering the fatal effects of heatstroke- even with cracked windows.
New Legislation To Make Safer Cars
The three horrific hot car deaths this week have sparked a legislative motion to get automakers more involved. The new bill would require car manufacturers to install sensors in all new models that would detect passengers in the backseat. The systems would also be required to provide an alert to drivers to encourage them to check the back before they walk away.
Some of the current safety systems on the market that Connecticut parents can take advantage of include:
- Hyundai-Rear Occupant Alert System
This system works by detecting the weight of a person in the rear seat and sounding several alerts to the driver if they leave the vehicle while a passenger is still present. First, a message will display on the LCD screen to instruct the driver to check the backseat. Next, horns, lights, and a smartphone message will alert the driver that someone is still sitting in the back.
- Nissan-Rear Door Alert
This system recognizes whether or not a driver opens the rear doors before a trip begins. If a door is opened, the system will honk the horn multiple times when the car is parked to alert the driver to check the back.
- GM-Rear Seat Reminder System
This system (also monitoring the opening of the rear doors) relies on a series of chimes to alert the driver that someone may still be in the backseat. The chimes are similar to when you leave your keys in the car to alert a driver that they forgot to do something.
Portable Car Seat Alarms
For parents who are looking for a solution now, car seat alarms are a great safety option. These devices are typically secured under the child’s seat or across the chest to monitor when they are present in the car. Fatherly lists these as the most popular products currently on the market:
- Car Seat Clips
The ChildMinder SoftClip and Elpho eClip both work by attaching the product to the seat harness. After syncing the devices to a smartphone and key fob, a driver can be alerted when their child is still in the car if they walk more than 15-feet away. The Elpho eClip even has a built-in thermometer to detect when the backseat is too hot.
- Car Seat Cushions
Sunshine Baby iRemind and Sense A Life are alarms in the form of a soft cushion that are placed under the child’s seat. These devices alert a driver when they walk away from the car that a child is still detected in the back seat.
- Smart Car Seat
Evenflo released a car seat with a built-in sensor to alert a parent when a child is still sitting in it. This car seat plugs directly into the cars on-board diagnostic port and chimes until the driver physically removes the child from the seat.
Child Safety Reminder Apps
If you don’t have the money for a new car or a fancy alarm, there are plenty of affordable and free apps parents can use instead.
Waze has a built-in feature that parents can use to set a reminder to check the back seat when they arrive at their destination. Another app through Kars4Kids will sound an alarm when the parent leaves the car as a reminder to check the backseat.
No cell service? For The Backseat App, it’s not a problem. This app works with both Apple and Android devices without Bluetooth and will sound an alarm when the car is parked. If the driver does not disengage the alarm, three emergency contacts will be contacted that someone could still be in the backseat.
If You See Something, Do Something
All Connecticut residents can do their part by staying alert to unattended children in hot cars. If you see a child or children alone in a car with no parent or guardian nearby, the N.H.T.S.A. advises patrons to take the following steps:
- Call 911 if the child appears to be in distress or is unresponsive. Follow first responder guidance on how to get the child out of the vehicle safely, even if it means breaking the glass.
- If the child appears fine, try to locate the parent or guardian in the parking lot or a nearby store before calling local authorities for assistance.
Don’t risk the life of a child by taking a chance that their parents will be back soon. If you see something, do something.