The summer’s rising temperatures serve as a somber reminder to avoid leaving children alone in a hot vehicle.
In 2013, 44 children died of heatstroke in the United States. The year before, 34 lost their lives to the same cause, and so far this year (as of August 4, 2014), 20 children have died. Many of these cases are the result of an accident committed by the victim’s own parents or caregivers.
Leaving a child in hot conditions for too long can have horrific consequences, including permanent injury or even death. Children are especially vulnerable to hot conditions, causing them to overheat up to five times faster than an adult. A child dies when his/her body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
At a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., a father shared his tragic and heartbreaking experience. On March 8, 2010, Reggie McKinnon (photo above and video below), of Florida, lost his youngest child when he accidentally left her in his car all afternoon. When McKinnon returned to his car after work, he realized he dropped off 17-month-old Payton at child care.
McKinnon shared his misconception about child heatstroke cases. “I used to think this happened to drunks, uneducated people or drug addicts,” he said. “This can happen to anyone. There is no demographic. Doctors, lawyers and rocket scientists have had this happened to them.”
McKinnon is now partnering with advocacy groups across the country to bring awareness to the issue.
“This pain can sometimes pull you right to your knees with no warning,” McKinnon told local media. “I made a promise to my sweet Payton Lynn that I would do everything I could to prevent this horror from ever happening to another child.”
The NHTSA wants parents to follow these three crucial guidelines to prevent hot car deaths:
- Never leave a child alone in a car
- It’s never OK to leave a kid unattended in a vehicle, even for
a few minutes, and even if the car is on.
- Leaving the windows open will not prevent heatstroke.
- Don’t let children play alone in a vehicle.
- Look before you lock
- Always check the backseats of your car before you lock it and walk away.
- Keep a stuffed animal or another item that reminds you of your child in his/her car seat when it’s empty. Move it to the front seat as a reminder when your child is in the backseat.
- If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has changed, always check that your child made it safely.
- Take action if you see a child alone in a car
- Don’t wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return
- Don’t worry about getting involved in someone else’s business — protecting children is everyone’s business.
- If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately:
- Call 911
- Get the child out of the car
- Spray the child with cool water (not in an ice bath)
- Check for signs of heatstroke:
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
- No sweating
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Confusion or strange behavior
- If a child is responsive:
- Stay with him/her until help arrives
- Have someone else search for the driver