As summer weather heats up, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is reminding drivers to never leave a child in a vehicle – even for a few minutes – to prevent heat-related injuries or even death, especially as family schedules change during the coronovirus pandemic.
Each year, about 40 children nationwide die after being left in a hot vehicle. In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars, making that year the deadliest summer on record. In Utah, where Primary Children’s Hospital is located, 13 children have died in hot vehicles since 1990, and others have suffered injuries in close calls.
“These tragedies can happen to anyone, and often occur when people forget a child is in the car,” said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Primary Children’s Hospital. “Stress, fatigue, and change of routine can push a person’s brain into autopilot, making it easier to forget.”
Summer is a time of heightened risk due to hot weather and changes in routine, including children being out of school and families staying up late for activities.
“Family routine changes that have come with the coronavirus pandemic can add extra stress – and give us even more reason to be vigilant about child safety,” Strong said.
Here are some ways to prevent hot car injuries and deaths:
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle – even for a few minutes. A child’s body temperature can increase 3-5 times faster than an adult’s body temperature. Cracking a window has very little effect on the temperature inside the car.
- Always check your vehicle before leaving it.
- Keep a visual reminder that a child is with you by placing a stuffed animal or diaper bag in the seat next to you. Or, place something you’ll need when you arrive at your destination, like a cell phone or purse, in the backseat while driving.
- If you see a child left alone in a car, contact the police or call 911.
To help provide people with visual reminders that a child is in the vehicle, Primary Children’s is offering free Baby Safety Snaps to residents of the Intermountain West.
The Safety Snap is a bright yellow lanyard printed with the words “Baby in Car.” The snap clicks into the car seat buckle where the straps connect in the 5-point harness. When you put your baby in the seat, you remove the lanyard and put it around your neck. When you arrive at your destination, the lanyard helps you remember the baby in the car.
To request a Safety Strap, or receive more information about kids and safety, please visit primarychildrens.org/safety.