The start of fall brings cooler, more comfortable temperatures after months of blistering summer heat. Most parents know the dangers of leaving their child in a hot car during the summer, but may not be aware of the hidden heat danger during the cooler months.
Tragically, in the United States, more than 900 children have died in hot cars since 1990, according to KidsandCars.org. The thought is almost too much to bear, yet it happens all too often.
Hot car injuries and deaths are easily preventable when you learn the facts.
You’ve probably been there. It’s tough to wake a sleeping baby once they’ve finally fallen asleep in the car seat after screaming for what seems like hours. You may be tempted to say, “I’ll just run into the school for a few minutes to drop off an older sibling. The baby will be fine. After all, it’s cool out, and he’s sleeping so soundly. Right?”
Wrong—in just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees, putting your little one in danger.
Young children are especially susceptible to heatstroke because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults’ bodies. Even on a cooler day, with temperatures in the 60s, the heat can rise inside a parked car to well above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat takes a dramatic and sometimes deadly toll on infants and toddlers.
AAA recommends using the acronym ACT year-round to help prevent hot car tragedies:
A– Avoid heat stroke by never leaving a child alone in a vehicle – even for a minute.
C – Create a system to help remember that the child is in the vehicle. For example, keep a stuffed toy in the car seat when the child is not seated there, and move it to the front seat when the child is in the vehicle, or keep the diaper bag in the front seat when transporting the child.
T – Take action by calling 911 if you spot a child left alone in a parked vehicle.
Now that you know the dangers, you can also take action if you see a child left in a vehicle. In 2016, Ohio enacted a law that allows people to break into vehicles to save children or animals trapped in a hot car without fear of being sued for the damage or charged criminally, as long as every door is locked and the police are called.
Heatstroke in winter:
It seems odd to talk about heatstroke in winter, but it can still happen. Parents worry their new babies will be too cold, so they bundle them up in sleepers, blankets and coats. Then, they start the car and turn on the heat.
Remember, young children and babies’ bodies heat up quickly, so in no time, your little one is overheating under all his/her gear.
The extra layers not only overheats the baby, but reduces the effectiveness of their car seat. When puffy coats and clothes are placed between the car seat harness and the child, it prevents the harness from fitting securely enough to protect the child in a crash.
Rather than covering your bundle of joy in a bundle of bulky clothes, simply put a hat on the child’s head and a blanket over the carrier when walking to and from the car. That way, the child won’t be too warm and will be secure in the car seat harness.
If you are unsure about the safest way to harness your child, you can always call one of AAA’s certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians and schedule a free car seat check. Find your closest location at www.AAA.com/CarSeat to ensure your child is safe year-round.