Hot Car Deaths

On an average summer, temperatures in Kansas City rise to almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. From inside a vehicle, 90-degree weather escalates to 109 degrees in just 10 minutes, and 124 degrees in 30 minutes. It’s easy to see how a hot car can quickly lead to heat stroke and death in pets and children. The more information you have about hot car deaths, the better you can prevent these tragedies in your life. Here’s what you should know.

It Can Happen to Anyone

Most parents believe they could never forget their children inside a vehicle – until it happens to them. Since 1998, 732 children have died in the U.S. from being left in hot vehicles. None of these parents expected such a thing to happen to them. However, anyone can forget a child in a vehicle. Research into what causes parents to accidentally leave children in cars points to flaws in the human brain’s memory capabilities. The basal ganglia is the part of the brain that operates subconsciously. It is this part of the brain that allows parents to go into “autopilot” with certain habits.

When something interrupts a parent’s normal routine, it can be difficult for the basal ganglia to consciously process new information. This can lead to the parent taking a route that doesn’t include the child – the parent’s typical route on a normal day. Most hot car deaths occur when the parent was unaware the child was in the vehicle. Something as simple as a variation in a parent’s regular routine can lead to this terrible outcome.

For example, if one parent typically drives to work without dropping a child off at daycare, and the parent’s basal ganglia takes over, he/she may go straight to work and forget the child is in the vehicle. The brain can also make up false memories to fill in gaps in the subconscious. This is what can lead to parents going about their daily routines without remembering that the child is still in the car. The number one thing to know about hot car deaths is that it can happen to anyone, at any time.

Teach Children Not to Play in Unoccupied Vehicles

According to studies, 28% of hot car deaths occur because of children playing in unattended vehicles. Parents should always keep unattended vehicles locked with keys out of reach of children. Do not let playing children inside the garage or other area where vehicles are kept. Children playing hide-and-seek or other games should have adult supervision or at least frequent check-ins to make sure no child gets accidentally locked inside a vehicle. Parents should never leave children unsupervised in a running vehicle or in one with windows cracked. This will not prevent heatstroke or hot car death. Awareness of the risks of hot cars and a few preventative measures could save lives in Kansas City.

Hot Car Deaths Are Preventable

Parents can prevent hot car deaths with a few simple measures. Experts recommend that parents leave an item in the backseat when transporting children, such as a shoe, purse, or briefcase. This can help them remember to check the backseat before leaving. Parents can also keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and move the toy to the passenger seat when a child occupies the car seat. There are budding technologies to help prevent these deaths, such as car seat chimes and apps for smartphones. Keep up with evolving technology for ways to help remind you that your child is in the vehicle. If you see a child stuck in a hot car, call 911.