Turning Tips to Habits: Prevent Leaving Kids in Hot Cars

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- As of 10 a.m. Monday, the organization Kids and Cars confirmed the number of children who have died in hot cars in 2014 has increased from 13 to 15 in this past week.

Sunday, a three year old from Lancaster, S.C. passed away in the hospital after suffering from heatstroke earlier in the week, when he became trapped while playing in the car. Also Sunday, a two-year-old girl was found dead in a hot car in El Paso, T.X.

Injury prevention coordinator Leigha Shepler, with Moses Cone Hospital's trauma services department, said instances like this can happen to anyone.

"People think that if you love your child, you won't forget. But, in almost every case, you usually just forget. You think you did and swear you did it," according to Shepler.

Shepler said 52 percent of children who die of heatstroke in cars are due to forgetfulness by a caregiver. Twenty nine percent are due to a child's playing in an unattended car and 18 percent are due to an adult's intentionally leaving a child in a car.

"This happens to people of all races, social classes and professions—people who absolutely love their children, Shepler said. "This can happen to you. A lack of sleep, a quiet baby, change of routine and distraction can all contribute to forgetting your child or being convinced you have dropped her off at daycare."

Shepler said it takes only minutes for a child to become distressed from heat. "A child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's," she said. A car can heat up 19 degrees in only 10 minutes, even despite a crack in the window, she explained.

Shepler and Kids and Cars have issued the following tips that can become potentially life-saving habits:

  • Leave a briefcase, purse, cell phone, lunch bag or wallet (something of necessity) in the back seat, where the child is located.
  • Place a teddy bear the car seat when the child is not with you. Place the teddy bear in the front seat, when the child is sitting in the seat.
  • Place your left shoe in the back seat, with your child.
  • Set a reminder on your phone each day at the time at which you must drop your child off at daycare.
  • Make an agreement with a significant other or responsible adult friend that you will text or call him or her upon dropping your child off. If this designated person does not hear from you at the agreed-upon time, he or she should call you.
  • Ask a babysitter or child care provider to call you, if your child does not arrive on time.
  • Thoroughly check the car and trunk upon exiting the car. Once you confirm it is empty, LOCK the car, so as to avoid children's playing in the car unsupervised.
  • Avoid using a cell phone while driving, to reduce distractions.


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