It’s been a hot summer in central Kentucky and scorching temperatures are expected for much of the rest of July. The unrelenting heat is prompting AAA Blue Grass to once again remind drivers to take every precaution never to leave a child in a vehicle, even for a few minutes. But AAA has an additional warning for parents and caregivers: Lock your vehicles when you’re home so a child doesn’t get into a vehicle and get trapped because they can’t get back out.
Researchers at Stanford University found that with an outside air temperature of 72 degrees F, the vehicle’s internal temperature can reach 117 degrees F in 60 minutes, with 80% of the temperature rise occurring in the first half hour . In general, the internal temperature of a vehicle can increase 40 degrees when the ambient temperature is between 72 and 96 degrees F. That means that when temperatures reach 90 degrees, as expected for the weekend, the interior temperatures of the vehicle they can reach 136 degrees. F.
“The temperature inside a car can reach life-threatening levels in a matter of minutes in this heat,” says Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager for AAA Blue Grass. “A child’s body temperature rises much faster than an adult’s. The danger in this intense heat cannot be underestimated. Not only are we concerned that children could be left behind in a vehicle by a distracted parent or caregiver, but children are also dying of heat stroke because they left the house and got into a vehicle, only to be trapped inside.”
She adds that children also die of heat stroke because a parent or caregiver intentionally leaves a child alone in a vehicle because they expect them to be gone for a short time. Often the adult underestimates the length of her absence or somehow lingers longer than expected. It takes only a few minutes for the internal temperature of a vehicle to reach dangerous levels.
More than 900 children across the country have died of heat stroke since 1998 because they were trapped in a hot car.
For the period 1998 to 2021, Kentucky ranks ninth in the nation for pediatric vehicle heat stroke deaths per capita, more than any surrounding state and more than hot-weather states like Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. 1
Ten children have already died across the country this year in the US. The most recent death of a child in a hot car in Kentucky occurred in 2020. A three-year-old girl reportedly died after getting into a vehicle without a parent’s knowledge and was unable to leave.
In 2019, two children in Kentucky died after being left in hot cars, both in August of that year. A 2-month-old boy was involuntarily left in a car for several hours on a day when temperatures reached 84 degrees. A 2-year-old girl died after leaving the house and becoming trapped in a hot car while her parent was napping after putting the child down for a nap.
“Tragedies like these bring needless distress to families and communities,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager for AAA Blue Grass. “Changes in routines often trigger situations that lead to death from heatstroke. Therefore, especially as temperatures rise, we remind parents and caregivers to take specific precautions to prevent children from heat stroke in vehicles. Simple but consistent steps can prevent the unimaginable pain that accompanies the loss of a child.”
Weaver Hawkins urges parents to remember the phrase “Look before you close” as a mindful reminder every time they turn off their cars after driving. Intentionally following the steps of looking in the back seat after parking and before locking the car can prevent life-threatening situations resulting from temporary mental lapses or even miscommunication regarding transporting a child.
However, parents and caregivers should be aware that nearly as many child deaths in hot cars occur when an unattended child gets into an unlocked vehicle on their own and then is unable to get back out.
These reminders for parents, caregivers, and others can help prevent kids from getting trapped in a hot car:
If your child is walking, you should block. Keep your vehicles and doors locked while you are home. Two of the most recent deaths of children in hot cars in Kentucky occurred because young children were able to leave the residence and enter a hot vehicle without their parents’ knowledge. Just as you teach your toddler about other dangers, teach him not to try to get into a vehicle alone.
Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute.. While you may not want to wake a sleeping child or deal with the hassle of buckling them in and out of the car seat just to run a quick errand, those few moments left in the car can spell tragedy for a child. Regardless of temperatures, take your child out of the car with you or leave them at home with a caregiver.
Create reminders that your child is on board. Tragedies can happen when a parent or caregiver is distracted and inadvertently leaves an infant or child in a locked car. Make a habit of leaving your phone, purse or wallet in the back seat to force yourself to go to the rear passenger area of the vehicle before closing.
Be a car hero. If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-11 and remove the child from the vehicle. Don’t think someone will come right back. Don’t think you can’t do anything about it. You could save a life.
Entrapment in hot vehicles has led to 23 child deaths in Kentucky in the past 23 years, according to the National Safety Council and advocacy group. NoHeatStroke.org.
“One hundred percent of these types of tragedies are preventable when parents and caregivers know what precautions to take and then act accordingly,” said Weaver Hawkins. “All Kentuckians who care for children need to be extra vigilant, not just during this heat wave, but at all times.”
AAA blue grass
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