Prevent Hot Car Deaths: Never Leave Kids in Cars

When we hear tragic stories of illness or injury, many of us think it could never happen to our families. But each year, about 40 families have to cope with the death of a child after they had suffered a heat-related illness in a vehicle. And Georgia has the 5th highest rate of pediatric deaths from hot cars in the U.S.

The stats are scary, but with knowledge and practice, tragedies like these are 100% preventable. Read on to learn how to prevent hot car-related illnesses and deaths.

How quickly cars can reach unsafe temperatures

Children left in cars are at a greater risk to suffer from a heat stroke and even death.

Leaving a child in the car to run a quick errand may seem harmless. But the truth is, it’s never safe to leave anyone (animals included) in a car, for any amount of time, even if it feels cool outside. Here’s why:

  • A car’s internal temperature can get higher than 100°F when the temperature outside is only in the 60s.
  • Temperatures inside cars can rise 20° in just 10 minutes.
  • A car’s internal temperature can reach 133°F in 1 hour on a 90°F day.
  • Kids’ body temperatures can rise 3 to 5 times faster than most adults.

A car’s internal temperature can get dangerously high in a matter of minutes, and not just during the hot summer months. And rolling down a window or parking in the shade does little to lower the temperature inside of a car.

If you can’t bring your child with you inside, leave them with a responsible caregiver.

Father checks back seat to make sure child is not in car

According to the National Safety Council, 80% of pediatric hot car deaths were unintentional. Usually it’s because of a change of routine. For example, dad typically drops off a child at school and brings the baby along, but mom did drop-off instead and forgot about the baby sleeping in the back seat, accidentally leaving them in the car when she got home.

It may seem obvious not to leave a child in a car, but life is busy and full of distractions, and accidents happen. When you’re out and about, remember to ACT:

  • Avoid heatstroke: Never leave anyone alone in a car. Check your front and back seats, ensure you have your keys in hand, and lock all car doors each time you get out of the car. Tragedies can occur when children sneak into unattended cars.
  • Create reminders: Leave a bag, cell phone or other essential item near your child as a reminder to check the back seat. Try putting one of your child’s toys or lovies in the front seat as an extra reminder. Discuss a plan with your child’s school or caregiver to always call you if your child doesn’t arrive on time.
  • Take action: If you see a child alone in a car, make sure they’re OK and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to call 911.
    • If the child appears to be OK, try to locate the child’s parent or caregiver.
    • If the child is unresponsive or seems in distress, try to get into the car to help—even if that means breaking a window. Georgia has a “Good Samaritan” law, which protects people from liability for caring for someone in an emergency.

Signs of a heatstroke include:

  • Cramps
  • High body temperature
  • Red, hot, dry skin (not sweating)
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paleness

If a child shows these signs after being in a car, spray them with cool water. Then call 911.

Turning these tips into a regular routine can help make safety a top priority and prevent hot car deaths.

If your child has an injury or is showing signs of illness, call your doctor or visit an urgent care center. If your child has a life-threatening injury or illness, is having trouble breathing or is unconscious, call 911 and/or visit an emergency department immediately.