According to a recent national report, 52 children lost their lives in hot cars in 2018 – the highest number on record.
Baruch Fertel, M.D., an emergency physician at Cleveland Clinic, said children are more susceptible to the extremes of temperature, because of their size.
Even a short period of time in very hot temperatures can cause severe heat stroke or even death.
“With the windows fully up, as the temperatures outside start to rise – or even if they’re not as hot outside, but the sun is shining directly in the car – it can be a matter of minutes before temperatures rise to dangerous levels of 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit – that could be deadly for a child,” he said.
Dr. Fertel said the overwhelming majority of families who suffer these tragedies are caring, loving parents who may have become distracted.
Some experts recommend putting a cell phone, a purse, or something else that is needed in the backseat to force someone to check it – even if they are sure a child is not there – just to get into the habit of checking every single time.
And when someone gets home, make sure that removing a child from the car is the first thing that’s done.
Dr. Fertel said people should feel empowered to speak up if something doesn’t seem right, because intervention could potentially save a life.
“It’s so important, if someone sees something, to say something,” he said. “If you’re a daycare provider, and usually that child comes by a certain time and they’re not there – call the parent and ask, ‘Why is the child not there; did you not mean to bring the child?”
Dr. Fertel said it’s never okay to leave a child alone in a car – even for a minute. Because a minute could turn in to ten minutes, or an hour, with devastating consequences.
If someone witnesses a child left alone in a car, even if the window is cracked, get involved and call for help.
“It could happen to any one of us, and if we don’t stop, and pay attention, and diligently focus and ask ourselves, ‘Is there a child in the car?’ this could potentially happen,” he said.