A child dies every nine days in the U.S. after being left too long in a hot car, according to the advocacy group Kids and Cars.
There is considerable worry the deaths will be more frequent this summer. Fifteen children have already died from vehicular heatstroke so far in 2013. That puts the country on pace to match the most tragic year ever, when 49 children died in such incidents in 2010.
On average, 38 children die every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In most cases, it’s not willful neglect that leads to such tragedies, but small changes in routine that lead to forgetfulness. A quick stop for an impromptu errand or a phone call that distracts a driver before a planned daycare stop can turn deadly.
“Absolutely the worst thing a parent can do is to think that this won’t happen to you,” said Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Cars. “I can guarantee you that the parents this has happened to never thought about this in their wildest imagination. They found out too late that this does not discriminate.”
Here are some prevention tips:
– Keep your briefcase or workbag in the back seat of the car, next to your child’s car seat. It’s an easy way to remind yourself to open a back door.
– Keep your cell phone on the floorboard of the back seat.
– Keep something beside you in the front seat, such as a stuffed animal, as a reminder the child is in the back seat.
– Make an arrangement with your daycare provider that they will call should you not show up on a day the child is scheduled for care.
– When a child is missing, check vehicles and trunks immediately.
– See a child in car alone on a hot day? Get involved. If they seem tired or sick, call 911 immediately.