Never leave a child or a pet alone in a car, not even for a minute.
Last year, 51 children died in hot cars in the US, the highest number on record since 1989. We know this is 100 percent preventable. We also know that sharing key messages that relate with parents and caregivers is important, but we’ve also seen that empowering bystanders to call 911 when they see a child or pet unattended in a car has proven to be the best line of defense to save lives. Everyone can play a role in saving a life if they are given permission to take action.
Most people assume that the parent responsible for their child dying of heatstroke in a car is a bad parent. However, in many cases, these are loving, caring, educated and trustworthy individuals who had a change in routine, got distracted, were sleep deprived, stressed, multi-tasking or all the above. This could happen to anyone—it could happen to you.
Since 1989, almost 800 children have died of heatstroke when they were unattended in vehicles. On average, 38 children die each year in one of three ways:
- 54 percent were left unknowingly in vehicles when the driver became distracted at the destination and forgot there was a child in the vehicle.
- 27 percent happened when the child went into an unlocked vehicle and could not get out.
- 18 percent happened the driver knowingly left the child in the vehicle while they did something else, such as running an errand.
Heatstroke doesn’t only happen on hot days. Heatstroke has occurred in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. Children and pets are still at risk even in cooler temperatures because of how quickly a car can heat up. Car interiors become unsafe quickly. Inside temperature can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes.
Children are at a higher risk than adults of dying from heatstroke because their bodies heat up faster than adults. Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Dogs can only cool themselves by panting.
If you see a child or pet alone in a car, call 911. You don’t know how long they’ve been there, so don’t waste any time. You can save a life. Emergency personnel are trained to respond.
Source: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine