Even in beautiful San Diego County, it gets really hot in the summer. The forecast where I live in Escondido this week is between the upper 80’S and low 90’s. We all know the devastating effects being in a closed car with no air conditioning can have on children and animals but every year, a child or animal dies due to heatstroke.
Even when it doesn’t seem that hot, the temperature in a car can quickly rise enough to kill a child. In only 10 minutes, the temperature in a car can go up by 20 degrees.
Tragically, 54% of the time, it happens when a parent forgets that a child is in the car. In 28% of the cases, children climb into the vehicle on their own. Rolling down the window or “cracking” the window does little to keep the vehicle cool.
Here are some tips to keep children safe from vehicular heatstroke:
· Look before you lock – It sounds crazy to think that somebody would forget that a child was in the back seat but if the child is sleeping or unusually quiet or you are distracted or in a hurry, it happens. We’ve all heard the horrible stories where a devastated parent did this and the child dies.
· Have a gentle reminder – This sounds dumb but if it works just one time, it is well worth it. Place a stuffed toy into the child’s seat when it is empty. When the child is in the seat, place the toy on the front seat with your purse, briefcase, or cell phone. Or, place your purse, briefcase, and/or cell phone into the back seat next to the child’s seat when traveling with a child. You normally would not forget a cell phone and this has the added benefit of keeping you from texting or talking on the phone while driving.
· Do a routine check – If your child is riding in somebody else’s car, always check to make sure that the child has arrived safely. Set a reminder on your phone to check in. Sure, you may come across as a “helicopter” parent but what if the person driving the car isn’t used to traveling with children? It’s better to give up some of your parental “cool points” and be sure.
· Keep track of your car keys – Keep your vehicle locked and your car keys out of reach. Nearly 3 of 10 heatstroke deaths occur when an unattended child climbs into a vehicle. This happened with my youngest son years ago before we had a keyless entry vehicle. He climbed in, shut the door, and locked the van while I was washing it. I told him to unlock the door but he thought it was all a big joke and laughed. He finally pushed the unlock button before I was forced to break a window. And this happened with me only a few feet away!
If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call the police right away. If the vehicle is unlocked, open the doors to let cooler air in. If the vehicle is locked, don’t hesitate to break a window if necessary. In a case like this, somebody needs to be a responsible adult because obviously, the caretaker of the child was not.