As temperatures across the country continue to climb this summer and states begin to reopen, the National Safety Council is calling on Americans to educate themselves about the dangers of pediatric vehicular heatstroke and how to prevent it. This is not a traffic safety area in which the U.S. can call itself a leader; in 2018 and 2019, we set painful records for the number of children dying in hot vehicles.1 Already this year, at least six children in the U.S. have died from being in a hot vehicle.2
Pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths occur when a caregiver forgets a child in a vehicle, the child gains access to a vehicle or someone knowingly leaves a child in a vehicle. Often when caregivers forget a child, they are outside of their regular routine, under stress or have experienced a lack of sleep, which is not uncommon for new parents. Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more vehicles have been sitting idle, and already this year three children have died after gaining access to unlocked vehicles. But parents and caregivers can take simple steps to help eliminate these preventable deaths:
- All drivers should keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access.
- Teach children that cars are not play areas.
- Create a habit of always checking the backseat before leaving your vehicle.
- Place a purse, briefcase or cell phone in the backseat of a vehicle, which can force drivers to look before they lock.
- Never leave a child in a vehicle when running errands, not even for a minute. Rolling down a window does little to keep a vehicle cool, and heatstroke deaths have occurred even in vehicles parked in shaded areas. There is no safe time period for leaving a child in a vehicle. This holds true even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Keep a stuffed animal or another memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty. Move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
- Set a rule for your child care provider; have them call you if your child doesn’t arrive as scheduled.
Heading into summer, Hyundai Motor America wants to remind everyone to check the rear seats when exiting a vehicle. This simple act can help prevent child deaths from heatstroke in vehicles.