The summer heat is here and that means it is even hotter inside the car. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is asking drivers to not leave children in hot cars and check the back seat before you get out of the car.
Tragically, 52 children died last year after being left alone in a hot car, a 21 percent increase from 2017 and the highest number in more than 20 years. Since 1998, more than 800 children have died from vehicular heatstroke.
“Cars are well insulated and rise in temperature quickly,” OTS Acting Director Randy Weissman said. “Too many senseless tragedies have taken place because parents or caregivers either forgot, thought it would be okay to leave a child in the car, or gave a child easy access to get inside.”
The temperature inside of a car can rise nearly 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. Even when it is only 70 degrees outside, the car temperature can reach triple digits in half an hour. A child’s body temperature can rise five times faster than an adult, leaving children prone to heatstroke quicker.
Common signs of heatstroke include red, hot and moist or dry skin, lack of sweat, dizziness, nausea, confusion, as well as being grouchy or acting strangely.
The OTS encourages parents and caregivers to take extra precautions to make sure a child is not left or forgotten in the back seat:
- Never leave a child alone in a car, even if you are running a quick errand, the child is sleeping or doesn’t want to get out.
- Make it a habit to look in the back seat before you leave the car. Keep a stuffed animal, purse, phone or wallet next to the car seat as a reminder.
- Check in with a spouse, child care staff or caregiver when there is a change in schedules to verify the child was picked up or dropped off.
- Always lock your vehicle and keep the keys out of reach. Teach your child that a car is not a play area.
Heatstroke prevention also applies to pets, who face the same risks for heatstroke when left in a hot car. Keep your pets safe by leaving them at home unless you need them with you.
If you see a child or pet alone in a hot vehicle:
- Make sure the child or pet is okay and responsive. If not, call 911.
- Try to find the parents or pet owner. Notify security or use a business or shopping center’s PA system to alert the car owner.
The OTS administers funding for traffic safety programs statewide with the goal of reducing crashes that result in deaths, injuries, and economic losses. The OTS is a department under the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA).