Hot car deaths aren’t just from parents forgetting or leaving their kids behind

Has the pandemic changed your routine? You'll want to watch unattended vehicles, as well

Driving (Peter Fazekas/Pexels stock image)

Even considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to people driving less and working from home more, the risk of hot car deaths remains high.

That’s according to AAA, which is urging parents to be extra cautious as the pandemic has changed our routines.

Summer-like temperatures have arrived, and the inside of a hot car can be fatal.

On April 25, a 4-year-old’s death marked the first vehicular heatstroke fatality of 2020, when the child left his home and climbed into a car without his family noticing.

The boy’s death follows 52 hot car deaths in 2019, and a record 53 deaths in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Keep your kids out of the car, unless they’re accompanied by you or another responsible family member. AAA provided the following tips:

  • Always lock your car doors and trunk, year-round. Make it a habit.
  • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a car is not a play area.
  • Keep car keys out of a child’s reach.
  • If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.

The majority of hot car deaths, at 54%, according to AAA, happen because someone forgets a child in a car. This often takes place when parents or caregivers forget to drop their child off at day care, because they become distracted or are off their routine.

The second leading cause, which makes up for 25% of vehicular heatstroke deaths, is when children get into unattended vehicles, either through an unlocked door or the trunk, AAA said.

The third leading cause is knowingly leaving a child behind. Many people seem to think if the windows are down or the air conditioning was recently on, it’s OK.

It’s just not safe. A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than adults. When the body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, the internal organs begin to shut down, AAA said.

There are all sorts of tips for drivers to help remember their kids in the back seat. Whether you need to keep a stuffed animal in the car (move it to the front seat if your child is in his or her car seat, as a visual reminder), place a sticker on the windshield or set up another visual cue, the worst thing you can do is assume this is silly and it could never happen to you. Accidents happen, people get comfortable in routines and it’s incredibly important to remain vigilant.