Challenger School

Avoid a Summer Tragedy: Never Leave Kids Alone in the Car

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One child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle, but what is most tragic is that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented. With summer in swing and the temperatures rising, the National Highway Safety Administration provides these key facts you’ll want to know:

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities for children 14 and younger

  • From 1998-2014 636 children died due to heatstroke. Of the 636 deaths:
    * 53% child “forgotten” by caregiver (336 children)
    * 29% child playing in unattended vehicle (186 children)
    * 17% child intentionally left in vehicle by adult (110 children)
    * 1% were unknown cases (4 children)
  • In 2014 there were at least thirty heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.
  • Children are at a higher risk than adults of dying from heatstroke in a hot vehicle especially when they are too young to communicate.
  • A child’s temperature heats up 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult’s.

High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death

  • Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the thermoregulatory
    system is overwhelmed. A core temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal.
  • In 10 minutes a car can heat up 20 degrees. Rolling down a window does
    little to keep it cool.
  • Heatstroke fatalities have occurred even in vehicles parked in shaded areas and when the air temperatures were 80 degrees F or less.
  • Heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees.
  • The warning signs vary, but may include:
    * Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
    * No sweating
    * A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
    * A throbbing headache
    * Dizziness
    * Nausea
    * Confusion
    * Being grouchy or acting strangely

It can happen to anyone

  • In 53 percent of cases the child was “forgotten” by the caregiver.
  • In more than 29 percent of cases, a child got into the vehicle on their own.

Some simple Reminders

Parents never think they’ll forget their baby or child in the car, but even great parents can forget a sleeping child in the back seat. And part-time caregivers who are unaccustomed to regularly transporting the child can be especially prone to forgetting.

That’s why all adults should always remember, “Look Before You Lock” to make sure there are no children left in the vehicle. Some other simple reminders include:

  • Write a reminder note about the child and put it on the car door or dash to see it when you leave the vehicle.
  • Set a reminder on your cell phone to alert you to check that you dropped your child off at daycare.
  • Place a purse, briefcase, or cell phone, in the back next to the car seat to remind yourself that your child is in the car.
  • Keep a familiar object in your child’s safety seat, such as a stuffed toy, so when you remove it after buckling up your child, you can place the object in the front seat as a reminder to always check the back for your child.
  • Never let kids play in an unattended vehicle or leave a child alone in a car, even if you leave the windows partly open or the air conditioning on—even for just a few minutes.

If you are a bystander

  1. Always make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
  2. If the child appears ok, you should attempt to locate the parents; or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system.
  3. If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while someone waits at the car.
  4. If the child is not responsive and appears in great distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child, even if that means breaking a window.
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