Hot Cars and Children don't mix!
When a child is forgotten in the car, a few minutes may turn into a lifetime of regret. I will discuss how we can prevent this tragic occurrence.
Each year 49 cases of hot car deaths occur in the US – that’s one every 9 days, and countless other children who fortunately are found in time.
With over 2500 kids dying each year from unintentional injuries, hot car deaths are completely preventable. Lots of press in the last 5-10 years has brought this issue to the forefront. But what hasn’t changed are the pressures encountered by working families and caregivers who are rushed, distracted or sleep deprived.
What is startling is that 65% are college educated, 35% with more than a bachelor’s degree. The average age of caregiver involved is 22-30. He or she is typically working within a career, owns a home. 55% of children affected are under the age of 2. Catalyst/trigger for forgetting the child is typically a change in schedule. A parent switching off duties with another parent or caregiver during times of change like: end of school year, beginning of vacation, going in to work unexpectantly and having to switch gears.
- 54% of children are forgotten by the caregiver
- 29% of children are left playing in an unattended vehicle
- 17% are intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult
- 1% circumstances are unknown
An affected infant or child suffers heatstroke – which is clinically defined as the body temperature exceeding 104 degrees or more without relief. Symptoms include dizziness, disorientation, agitation/confusion, seizures, hot dry skin without sweat, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat and hallucinations. Once the core body temperature reaches 107 degrees F or greater, cells are damaged and internal organs start to shut down. This cascade can lead rapidly to death.
Young children in hot cars are especially vulnerable – their ability to cool through perspiration is less efficient than adults and they are not able to adjust their behavior in response to the heat, such as removing clothing or exiting from a car seat or from the car. Also, because the surface area of a child compared with their weight is greater, their bodies absorb more energy from the environment than an adult. So kid’s body temperature warms at a rate 3-5 times FASTER THAN AN ADULT!
Why do cars get so hot inside? Even though the windows of a car don’t heat up significantly, the shortwave radiation from sunlight does heat up objects inside the car – most notably the dashboard, steering wheel, seats and carseats. Once heated these objects throw off longwave radiation that warms the air trapped inside a vehicle. VERY quickly a car, even with windows cracked, can achieve life threatening temperatures within a few minutes – and the hotter it is outside, the shorter time it takes to reach critical life-threatening heat in the car. You can see from the chart that even on a modestly warm day of 70 degrees, it takes just 40 minutes in a car to be in danger, and less than 10 minutes when temperatures hover in the 90s – that’s a quick dash in and out of the house when baby is sleeping in the car!
Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Outside Air Temperature (F)
> 1 hour
These are horrible accidents, but some parents may be neglectful. What has happened in terms of the law?
An Associated Press (AP) study found "Wide disparity exists in sentences for leaving kids to die in hot cars". It examined both the frequency of prosecutions and length of sentences in hyperthermia death
That study found that charges were filed in 49% of all the deaths and 81% of those resulted in convictions.
- In cases with paid caregivers (i.e., childcare workers, babysitters) 84% were charged and 96% convicted
- Only 7% of the cases involved drugs or alcohol
So what can we do to prevent hot car deaths?
An innovator in Silicon Valley invented the iRemind alarm – it’s a small pad you place beneath the lining of your child’s carseat. It detects weight down to one pound. Using either an app or a key fob, if you walk away from your car with the child still in there, your smartphone or keyfob will start to alarm and continue to wail the further away you are. This signals a caregiver to return to the car to retrieve a passenger. My opinion is that this technology would be great to use beneath the seats of older disabled, non-verbal or autistic children who may snooze in the car, and have tired, distracted caregivers as well.
Retails for $99. Available on iRemindalarm.com, Amazon and Walmart. Use the code HALLMARK20 for $20 off on Amazon and iRemindalarm.com
In addition, Evenflo, a trusted brand of baby products, also makes a carseat with a special sensor in the chest clip. A receiver, paired to the seat, is plugged into the car’s diagnostic system and when the car comes to a halt or the chest clip is unbuckled, the device starts to chime, signaling to the driver to retrieve the little passenger. The seats come with SensorSafe Technology and retail for $149 on Amazon, Target, Toys R Us. Currently this technology is only available on rear-facing carseats rated up to 35 pounds.
And here are some common sense but VERY important rules to follow:
Parents and other caregivers need to be educated that a vehicle is not a babysitter or play area ... but it can easily become tragedy
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. If you can get the child out, do so.
Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don't overlook sleeping babies.
Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices. Teach children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
IF A CHILD IS MISSING, ALWAYS CHECK THE POOL FIRST, AND THEN THE CAR, INCLUDING THE TRUNK.
Keep a stuffed animal, pacifier or child's toyt in the car seat and when the child is put in the seat place that object in the front with the driver. Or place your purse, briefcase, work ID or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
Make "look before you lock" a routine whenever you get out of the car.
Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up on time.
For a link to the episode which aired on Home & Family, please click on this link: https://youtu.be/e-LJCttV9q8