Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Every year, an average of 38 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside a vehicle, but it's a tragedy that can be avoided through mindful preparation.
“If it's 100 degrees outside, it can get up to 140 degrees inside a (closed) vehicle,” said Cherokee County Extension Agent Wendi Green. “And because a child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adults, it doesn't take but for a few minutes for it to become very dangerous for a child inside that closed vehicle.”
What people may not realize, she added, is that “the way windows are made, (the glass) makes it act like an oven inside,” heating up the interior more quickly than thought possible.
According to the website kidsandcars.org – which reports that one child dies of vehicular heat stroke every nine days, or 38 per year – “several factors contribute to children being inadvertently forgotten” by their care-givers.
Common factors include change in normal routine, lack of sleep, stress, fatigue, distraction and hormone changes. “When these factors combine,” the site states, “the ability or the brain to multi-task is diminished.”
The site reports that in 54 percent of these cases, a child was unknowingly left in the vehicle; 31 percent of the children got inside the vehicle on their own, while nearly 12 percent were knowingly left inside the vehicle.
The largest majority of fatalities – 87 percent – involved children ages 3 and younger, according to kidsandcars.org.
However, Green said there are ways to help cut back those numbers, simple little things that can make a world of difference.
In fact, she said, General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids Worldwide (a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children) have launched an education awareness campaign called “Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car,” designed to help parents and care-givers understand the dangers hot vehicles pose to children.
“The campaign encourages everyone to ACT,” says a link on the safekids.org website :
• A – “Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock doors and trunks – even in your driveway. And keep keys and keyfobs out of the reach of kids.”
• C – “Create reminders. Place something you'll need at your next stop … next to the child safety seat. It may seem simple, but it can be a helpful reminder on a chaotic day.”
• T – “Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations.”
Green reminded parents to also educate the people they entrust as their children's care-givers, “especially young teens who are young drivers who may not be aware of this,” she said.
However, the simplest way to protect your child is to leave them at home if you are able, she said. “Especially young babies, who are three to five times more likely (to succumb to heatstroke),” Green said. “Or take an adult with you and keep the vehicle running so that they're safe inside, where it's cool.”