It has become all too common to read or see a story about a tragic death or a child left inside a hot car. With summer upon us, AAA reminds motorists to take extra precautions to make sure children and pets are always safe.
As of July 6, 2021, 7 children have died this year as the result of vehicular heatstroke. In 2020 heatstroke claimed the lives of twenty-five children in the U.S., which was low compared to most years, most likely due to the pandemic. Since 1998, the year pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths have been recorded, 890 children have perished in hot vehicles.
Heatstroke is clinically defined as core body temperature of 104 degrees, the temperature where brain and organ damage begins, and can be deadly. On a 70-degree day, the temperature inside a closed vehicle (even with the windows cracked) can reach over 115 degrees in less than 15 minutes. On a summer day, leaving a child or a pet inside a vehicle for less than 10 minutes can prove fatal. Children and pets can’t regulate their body temperature like adults, and their bodies heat up three to five times faster.
Data shows that 53% of children are forgotten in the vehicle by their caregiver. Twenty-seven percent of children involved in these tragedies gained access to a vehicle on their own, without a parent or caregiver realizing. Examples include young children playing games such as “hide and go seek” and entering a hot vehicle to be quickly overcome by hyperthermia. For this reason, it is critical to lock parked vehicles to reduce this risk.
Unfortunately, children are often knowingly left in a vehicle; 20% of these deaths occur because a caregiver left the child intentionally, yet not necessarily maliciously. Young children are left to “finish a nap” or the caregiver runs into a store or business to complete an errand without the child, not realizing the danger or how quickly brain damage can occur. Twenty-one states, including Connecticut and Rhode Island, have laws preventing caregivers from leaving children unattended in a vehicle.
If you see a child or pet left alone in a vehicle, dial 9-1-1 to report the incident and, if necessary, take action to remove them. Never leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle. “Look before you lock” your vehicle and when you exit, keep the vehicle locked so a child cannot gain access.
AAA Northeast has created these short educational videos covering steps motorists should take to protect their children and their dogs. For videos on this topic, please click links: