Precious Cargo: A Reminder On Children and Hot Cars

Summertime is the best time–it means fun in the sun, places to go, and taking advantage of the warmer weather. However, these sunny days can also be dangerous, particularly when it comes to vehicles and children. In 2022 alone, 33 children in the U.S. died from heatstroke in a vehicle. Most of these children were under the age of four. We see the stories in the news and it’s easy to think “what kind of parent forgets their child” but accidents happen, or a parent or caregiver unintentionally leaves the child in the car. 

Often it stems from a change in routine or a tired or distracted parent. It’s easy to think something like this would never happen to us, but we’ve all had those days with changed routines, a million things to do and our brains on autopilot, or we’re just exhausted and sleep deprived. It’s not just the adults that we need to teach about car safety, either. Unfortunately, an innocent game of hide and seek can turn into a tragedy when a kid thinks the car is a perfect hiding spot and accidentally locks themself inside the car or trunk and they aren’t found until it’s too late.

It doesn’t take long for the interior of a vehicle to get hot. In as little as 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees. That means on an 85° day a car can reach 120° in 20 minutes. Even cracking a window doesn’t keep a car cool enough in the sweltering heat–especially on a day when there is no breeze. Children, particularly infants and toddlers, are more susceptible to heatstroke since their small bodies heat up faster than adults.

Here are some tips on how to keep our kids safe:

  • Always check the back seat before exiting your vehicle. If your child is in a rear-facing seat, take an extra second and look at the inside of the car seat instead of just glancing in the rearview mirror. A sleeping infant or toddler won’t make noise so it’s important to make sure that the car seat isn’t occupied.
  • Check in with the caregiver or other parent. A daily text at daycare drop off can put everyone’s mind at ease, especially on those days where the routine is different. This daily habit keeps everyone in the loop.
  • Put something in the backseat that you must retrieve. Maybe it’s your purse, briefcase, cell phone or lunch that you brought from home, just something that you physically have to get from the backseat.
  • Put an object for your child in the front seat, like a diaper bag or toy that they need once you get to the destination. Having that visual cue as a reminder can be helpful.
  • Avoid distractions. Easier said than done, but be mindful when you reach your destination. Make lists, set phone reminders, plan out errands, etc.
  • Ask your daycare provider to check in with you if your child is unusually late or absent. If you know something is amiss at the beginning of the day you can figure out what’s going on with your child before it’s too late.
  • Never leave kids in the car alone.
  • If you do have several errands and don’t want to continually get the kids in and out of the car, find someone to ride along with you so they can stay in the car while you are running around.
  • Utilize drive thru and curbside pick-up services if you are out with the kids. Thanks to Covid protocols, a lot of businesses offer this option now.
  • Teach your child that it is never safe to play in a parked car or use it as a hiding spot for hide and seek.
  • Lock the vehicle when not in use. This will help deter kids from playing in the car and also help prevent car break-ins. 
  • Keep keys and key fobs out of reach of children.
  • Teach kids how to get out of the vehicle in case they do get locked in one. Cars manufactured after 2002 are required to have a glow in the dark trunk release. Teach your child where to find it and what it’s used for. For older vehicles, a trunk release kit can be purchased online.
  • If you see a child in a car unattended stay with the vehicle, try to find the parent, or alert authorities. If the child is in distress or unresponsive get them out by whatever means are necessary and call 911.

This may seem like basic knowledge; however, a reminder can keep our kids safe and avoid a preventable tragedy. Even the most vigilant parent can have an off day, but erring on the side of caution can save a life. Have a safe end of summer, everyone!


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