During the average year in the United States, 38 children die from a heat-related death because they are trapped inside of a hot vehicle. Although there is the occasional story of a child accidentally locking themselves in a car, this outcome is usually due to a parent, guardian, or caregiver forgetting that there are passengers in the rear seat or thinking that their stop will be quick enough that it will be ok.
There were 52 fatalities in 2018 because of this issue, which equates to an incident happening about once per week. When you examine these incidents over the past two decades, over 800 children and countless pets have needlessly died because they were forgotten.
Even one child dying in this manner is too many. That is why the U.S. Congress is debating legislation that would require a rear seat sensor to be included with all new vehicles.
Safety Tips that Help to Save Lives
It can take up to 20 years for new technologies to make their way into vehicles. Congressional legislation might prevent these tragedies in the future, but it is up to each of us to act today. That is why developing these simple habits can help to keep children safer.
- Never leave a child alone in a car under any circumstance.
It helps to get into the habit of opening the back door every time you step out of your vehicle. You can also place an item, such as a wallet or purse, in the rear seat to ensure that you double-check that there are no other passengers present. Also have your daycare provider contact you immediately if your child doesn’t arrive on time.
- Keep your vehicle locked at all times.
If your car is locked and the keys to it are not accessible, then a child cannot get into a vehicle and accidentally trap themselves. Teach your kids to honk the horn if they do become stuck for some reason so that someone can get to them immediately.
- Be careful during the busy times.
The most common time for an incident like this to occur is when there is a change to your schedule. Periods of crisis, a holiday, and other moments in life that can grab your attention can also create a forgetful moment about a rear seat passenger.
- Use services with drive-thru windows.
When you can eliminate the number of times you leave your vehicle, then you’re reducing the risk of leaving someone behind. Whether you need to get something to eat or are picking up your dry cleaning, this step eliminates one more distraction in your day. Try to use full-service fuel stations or pay at the pump as well.
How Can You Get Involved?
Beyond the obvious steps of implementing these safety tips and discussing them with your family, friends, and neighbors, the most important thing you can do is contact your elected officials in Congress to encourage them to pass this legislation.
General Motors has offered Rear Seat Reminder since 2016, and Nissan offers a similar system that it quickly made a standard feature on many of its popular models. There is also the possibility of retrofitting older makes and models with alert technologies.
Leaving a child unattended in a hot vehicle is a 100% preventable tragedy that we can stop, especially in the southwest. If you see a child who looks hot and unattended in a car, then call 911 immediately.