Anyone who lives in Georgia knows our summer heat sometimes seems unbearable. In fact, it can be deadly, especially for our children. July tends to be the deadliest month for children trapped in hot cars.
With just a week left in June, the number of child deaths in hot cars has exceeded last year with 18 child hyperthermia fatalities already reported nationwide since January. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identifies Hyperthermia (heat-stroke) as the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of fourteen. And every year more than 30 children die in this country because they’re alone in the car.
This summer spike in child hyperthermia deaths has prompted NHTSA’s top official to issue a consumer advisory including a warning for parents not to leave children unattended in or near a vehicle and I want to repeat that special warning: Kids and hot cars are a deadly combination!
Heat is physiologically much more detrimental to our children than it is to us. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. So any child left in a vehicle under extreme heat conditions is left in a potentially deadly situation. On days when the temperature here exceeds 86 degrees, the internal temperature of your vehicle quickly climbs between 134 and 154 degrees. Body temperatures higher than 105 degrees can cause permanent brain damage and even death, especially among children.
With those figures in mind, most parents are shocked to learn that temperatures in your vehicle can spike to 160 degrees in a matter of minutes during Georgia’s hottest summer days.
And don’t think kids are safer in the spring. Even when it’s cooler, around 70 degrees in Georgia, the inside of a car can climb dangerous degrees in just minutes. Then heat stroke can occur during temperatures as low as 80 degrees.
The tragic fact is that from 1998 to 2008, approximately 390 children, most of them ages three and younger, died from heat stroke after being trapped inside cars.
Research conducted by San Francisco State University found that more than a third of the children who died under these conditions were accidentally left behind in a closed, parked car by a parent or caregiver while another third were trapped while playing in unattended vehicles.
The most tragic statistic of them all: One-in-five child heat fatalities were intentionally left in vehicles by adults.
To help prevent such senseless tragedies, our partners at Safe Kids Georgia offer several safety tips when it comes to children, cars and Georgia’s legendary summer heat:
Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows slightly open for ventilation.
Teach children not to play in, on, or around any vehicle.
Check vehicles and trucks FIRST if a child goes missing.
Always lock all vehicle doors and trunks, especially at home; keep keys out of children’s reach. Cars are not playgrounds or babysitters.
Check to make sure all children enter and leave the vehicle when heading to and from a destination.
Be especially careful if dropping-off infants or children at daycare is not part of your normal routine.
Place something you’ll need at your next stop (i.e. purse, lunch, gym bag, or briefcase) on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting.
This simple act could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting a child.
Parents need to know these potentially life saving tips to avoid a fatal outcome that can happen in the blink of an eye. For more information to keep your child safer this summer, visit www.safekidsgeorgia.org
Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety