In 2017, so far, 19 children have died in the United States after being left in hot cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The latest victim was an 11-month-old baby girl who passed away in a suburb of Chattanooga, Tenn. when the father had left her inside the vehicle for an unknown amount of time, local media reported.
The temperature had reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit when the child was left alone. When emergency responders arrived on the scene, the infant’s temperature was 106 degrees Fahrenheit. She was instantly pronounced dead.
However, this isn’t an unusual occurrence this summer. According to the National Safety Council, at least two children on average die per week from being left in hot vehicles during summer months.
It only takes less than an hour for temperatures in a closed vehicle to rise to dangerous levels. Young children and babies are extremely vulnerable to hyperthermia because their bodies aren’t developed enough to regulate temperature.
Most instances of children who die of heat-related complications from being left inside a vehicle occur because parents forget they are still in there. Shockingly enough, 17 percent had died after being left behind intentionally. In 2016, 39 children died of heatstroke after being left inside cars, NHTSA reported.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) has introduced legislation that would make it mandatory for automakers to install vehicles with an alarm that would alert the driver if a child is present in the backseat after the car is turned off. The National Safety Council is also attempting to push innovations in car seat design that would use wireless technology to remind the driver that a child has been left in the seat once the vehicle is turned off.
NHTSA, the National Safety Council as well as other organizations have encouraged motorists with children to “look before you lock.”
Tips on the NHTSA website include:
- NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended.
- Make it a habit of looking in the backseat EVERY time you exit the car.
- ALWAYS lock the car and put the keys out of reach.