Hot cars are no place for kids—even in the shade

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It’s a mistake few parents can imagine making: Leaving a forgotten child in a car on a hot summer’s day.

But that’s the case for more than half of the children who’ve died from heatstroke while trapped in a car, according to researchers. Their parents or caregivers simply forgot that a young child was in the back seat.

As of today’s date, 758 children have died of heatstroke in cars since 1998. That works out to an average of 37 children every year. So far in 2018, 16 children have died in cars, according to—a program supported by the National Safety Council.

How high can the temperature climb in a car left in the sun? To find out, researchers in Arizona left six cars parked in the sun for an hour. When they returned to the cars, the temperature inside the vehicles was 116 degrees. The researchers also tried parking the cars in the shade. Within one hour temperatures in the cars were around 100 degrees. Both temperatures are high enough to be fatal to infants and children.

The study was published in the journal Temperature.

Keep kids safe

Not all children who die in hot cars are forgotten by their caregivers or parents. Some children become trapped while playing in unlocked vehicles. In other cases, caregivers may not be aware of the danger of leaving a child in the car when it’s warm outside.

To prevent children from dying of heatstroke in a car, offers these tips:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for one minute.
  • If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 911.
  • Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies.
  • Make “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When you place your child in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front with you as a reminder your child is in the back. You can also remind yourself by putting your purse, briefcase or cellphone in the back seat.
  • Always lock your car at home and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
  • Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
  • Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for daycare or preschool.

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