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Kids and Hot Cars: One of The Worst Summertime Accidents Happens While Parked

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By, Alexa Williams-Brown, Richmond Office

It’s officially August, and with temperatures still hovering at summertime highs, it’s a good time to be reminded that one of the deadliest vehicle accidents can happen while your car is parked. Vehicle Heatstroke kills an average of 37 kids annually, and it can happen frighteningly quickly. The mercury inside of a parked vehicle can climb 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. This extreme heat can even happen on a relatively cool day, when an outside temperature in the mid-60s can result in an interior car temperature of 110 degrees.

Heatstroke sets in when a person’s core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees, and once body temperature climbs to about 107 degrees, Heatstroke typically becomes fatal. Kids’ biology makes them particularly vulnerable to overheating: a child’s body temperature increases 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s does. Inside of a hot car, a child can quickly become overwhelmed by skyrocketing temperature, meaning that every minute counts when it comes to preventing these tragedies.

And while forgetting a child in the backseat of a car undoubtedly feels to many of us like something that would never, ever happen, experts explain that even the most mindful parents and caregivers can potentially make this fatal mistake. A simple change in our usual daily routine, like driving a different route to work or fielding an unexpected phone call while on the way to daycare drop-off, can leave us at risk of neglecting to remember that our child is still in the back seat.

Both public-awareness campaigns and a push for legislation requiring vehicles to be equipped with backseat sensors are aimed at decreasing these vehicle heatstroke deaths. But even without high-tech sensors and alarms, every one of us can greatly reduce the chance of a tragedy like this happening by incorporating a simple backseat routine into our daily lives: by always leaving a bag or purse in the backseat, or by making a habit of circling the car and looking into the back whenever we exit our vehicle. The aim is to make it our “auto-pilot” default to look in the backseat of our cars, every single time we get out of a vehicle. By making these actions part of our regular driving patterns, we can rewire our brains to automatically check the backseat before we walk away from our cars, even in times of high stress or disrupted routine. It’s a simple change each of us can make, but one that could potentially save a life!