Summer may not be here yet, but warmer weather has already arrived in the Valley! According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Spring Outlook report, Arizona is expected to see higher than normal temperatures this summer as drought conditions continue to worsen in the Southwest. While Valley residents are no strangers to high temperatures, they need to be aware of the risk high temperatures can create for children.
According to data collected by Kids and Car Safety, more than 1,000 children have died from vehicular heatstroke since 1990 and more than 7,300 have survived with a variety of severe injuries. Aside from car crashes, heatstroke is the leading cause of death in vehicles for children under the age of 14.
How does this happen?
Most of these incidents occur during a drive when a parent or caregiver forgot their child was in the car with them and unknowingly left them behind. While all situations vary, if a parent has a new routine, is distracted while driving, sleep deprived or stressed out they are more likely to go into autopilot mode while driving and forget their child is in the backseat.
Even on days with mild temperatures, nothing can keep your child safe in a hot vehicle: not the color of your car, not a cracked window, or parking in the shade. Temperatures inside a car escalate quickly regardless of these factors. A car’s windows allow sunlight to transfer in and heat up the air inside the vehicle. Interior elements such as the plastic dashboard, steering wheel, and upholstery also absorb heat and radiate it back into the air further increasing the temperature inside a car. It only takes 10 minutes for a vehicle to heat up more than 19 degrees.
These high temperatures are particularly dangerous for a young child because they lack the ability to regulate their body temperature causing their bodies to heat up three to five times faster than an adult.
What can I do?
Incidents like these are completely preventable and everyone can take part in helping avoid them. Start by raising awareness and talking to others about vehicular heatstroke. Create a habit of checking your backseat by placing something of yours in the back every time you get into your car. If you’re traveling with a small child, set up multiple reminders at different times to make sure they are not left behind. For parents or guardians that are working from home, never leave your car unlocked and keep car keys somewhere not accessible for young children. If your child is missing always check your car and trunk first. Finally, if you see a child or pet left behind in a parked car, don’t hesitate to call the police and help remove the child or pet from the vehicle.
Learn more tips to Keep Your Family Safe this summer.