Did you know that 23 children to date this year have died after having been left in a vehicle in the hot sun? Last year, 33 children died from heatstroke after having been left in a car or van. Only 20 states have specific laws that address leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. What is the policy in your child care program? In your state?
Since most child heatstroke deaths are an unintentional consequence of parents or caregivers forgetting about a child in
a vehicle, laws alone aren’t sufficient to reduce the number of child deaths. That’s why the National Weather Service has started a campaign, “Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat.” Through greater public awareness, parents and caregivers might be less apt to forget a child.
A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal found that even on days when the outside temperature was relatively mild (72 degrees F), the temperature inside a vehicle can rise to 117 degrees within 60 minutes. Young children and infants are more susceptible to heat illness than adults because their smaller bodies warm more quickly and they are less able to regulate heat.
The Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University tracks child deaths related to heatstroke in vehicles. Nearly 600 children have died from heatstroke in vehicles since 1998. More than half of the deaths involve children under 2 years of age.
Some quick tips for parents and child care providers:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Not even for a minute!
- If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1.
- Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading.
- Always lock your car and ensure that children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
- Make “Look Before You Leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car, and ask your child care provider to do this as well.
- Have a plan that your child care provider will call you if your child does not show up for the day
- Double check that your child care center does a head count of all children in a van before the day care van goes anywhere, when the van is unloaded off-site, and again upon re-entry off-site and upon returning back to the center.
To learn more about preventing the death of children from heatstroke in vehicles, check out this webinar from Child Care Aware of America – Children and Cars: Heat Safety, July 24 at 7:00pm (EST).