Texas Leads the Nation in This Statistic and It Needs to Change
According to the National Safety Council, "on average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle." Texas is the leader in these deaths, totaling 133 since 1998. As of May 20th, 2022, that number sadly moved to 134 when a 10-month-old baby girl died in Houston. The temperature was 90 degrees outside.
These are devastating statistics and with temperatures remaining in the 90s and triple digits this week, we want to urge parents to be vigilant about keeping their kids safe and to always look before you lock. Now you may be thinking, 'how could you forget your child?' or 'that would never happen to me,' but the majority of these incidents are not malicious. They are accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "a child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult's." What that means is that you should never be in the habit of leaving your child in the car, even for a second.
A Stanford study found that "a car's interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour." Most interestingly, they discovered that the factor that matters the most is if the car is parked in the sun.
Since we live in a city where parking garages are scarce, this makes this information even more important to note. Some parents may think that opening the windows or cranking the air conditioning will remove the threat, but they would be wrong. Those same "researchers found that such measures are inadequate: a cracked window had an insignificant effect on both the rate of heating and the final temperature after an hour, and the air conditioner trick only delayed the temperature spike by about five minutes."
Two tips to help prevent this from occurring are to put a personal item in the backseat with your child, such as your keys, wallet or purse, and to ask your childcare facility to always call if your child doesn't show up on time. However, Dr. Kristy Bybee, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Covenant Children's Hospital in Lubbock, made another very important point.
"Make sure [that your] children don't have access to vehicles so that they can not get trapped in a locked car," she said.
While it may seem silly, children are inquisitive and many residents park their cars in the driveway and leave them unlocked. If a child were to inadvertently lock themselves inside, it would not take long for the Texas heat to have a detrimental, if not deadly, impact. Therefore, always keep your car locked, even when parking it safely on your property.
Additionally, the popular traffic app Waze has a feature that alerts parents to check the backseat when they arrive to their destination. Simply turn the "Child Reminder" function on and you're all set.
There's also a car seat clip called SensorSafe that monitors your child's movement, temperature and more. If it indicates an issue, it sends an alert directly to your smartphone.
While these may seem like drastic solutions, you can never be too cautious when it comes to your child. Most importantly, a good number of these hot car deaths occur when the normal caregiver is not present.
These simple steps can be the difference between life and death. We need to take strides to stop being the leader in this heartbreaking statistic and it all starts with being proactive.