As summer weather heats up, it’s time to think about child safety and cars. While many think it could never happen to their family, since 1998 more than 630 children have died from being left in a hot vehicle, 30 of those in 2014.

How could someone leave a child in a car in when the weather turns warm? Often, it’s a parent out of their normal routine tasked with taking a child to daycare or someone in a rush who forgot a sleeping infant in the back seat.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concluded that nearly half of the infants and children who died from being left in a vehicle were forgotten by their parent or caretaker. In another study, 25 percent of mothers interviewed admitted to leaving infants and toddlers in motor vehicles, and only one-third of those would leave windows half or fully opened. In other instances, young children have climbed into unlocked cars and were unable to get out as the sun turned them into ovens.

Here’s the danger – research shows that cars parked in direct sunlight, even when outside temperatures are in the 60s, can heat up to over 110 degrees. On an 80 degree day the heat can surpass 130 degrees. That would mean a child left inside could reach life-threatening levels in just ten minutes. This video dramatization shows how a simple shopping trip might turn into a disaster on a sunny day.

The peril of overheated vehicles also applies to our pets. Animal experts say 15 minutes in a car on a summer day can be deadly, even if the windows are rolled down. It’s feared that hundreds of pets die or suffer permanent damage each year from overheating in a vehicle.

The NHTSA has a checklist for parents and caregivers to prevent heatstroke tragedies:

  • Never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are partially open
  • Always check back seats before locking or walking away
  • Use reminders that a child is in a vehicle: place a purse or briefcase in the back seat, write a note or put a stuffed toy in the passenger seat or in the drivers view to indicate a child is in the car seatHot
  • Ask the childcare provider to call if the child doesn’t show up as expected
  • Teach children that vehicles are not places to play and store keys out of their reach

If you see children or pets left in a vehicle:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Don’t wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return
  • If the child is unresponsive or listless get them out of the car and spray them with cool water
  • Stay with the child until the driver returns or medical help arrives

California Casualty urges all parents and caregivers to join the “Where’s Baby – Look Before You Lock” campaign. You can find a link to other safety information including Safe Kids USA at our resource page,

Sources for this article:

California Casualty

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