Two more children have died in hot cars this year, bringing the total to nine. The latest victims were a pair of toddlers from a Fort Worth, Texas-area town. The 16-month-old boy and 2-year-old girl were found unresponsive after allegedly locking themselves in a vehicle on accident. Most heatstroke deaths occur when caregivers forget a sleeping or quiet child in the backseat, but playing in a car can lead to the same tragedy.
Data from researchers at the San Jose State University Department of Meteorology & Climate Science, who manage the website NoHeatstroke.org, show that approximately 30 percent of fatal heatstroke cases are due to a child playing in an unattended vehicle, and it only takes a few minutes for a child's body to become overwhelmed by heat. Temps were reported to be in the high 90s near Fort Worth that day, and the university reports that when the outside temperature is just 80 degrees, the inside of a car will reach nearly 110 degrees in 20 minutes.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, heatstroke occurs when the body's temperature exceeds 104 degrees; a body's organs begin to shut down at 107 degrees and children are at a greater risk for heatstroke because their body temperature rises 3 to 5 times faster than an adult's.
NHTSA urges caregivers to follow these prevention tips:
- Teach children that vehicles and trunks are not for playing.
- Always supervise your children carefully when in and around vehicles.
- Lock your car doors and trunk, and be sure keys and remote entry devices are out of sight and reach of your kids.
- Check the trunk right away if your child is missing.
- Keep the rear fold-down seats closed and locked to keep your children from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.
- As of September 1, 2001, auto manufacturers were required to equip all new vehicle trunks with a "glow in the dark" trunk release inside the trunk compartment. Show your kids how to use the release in case of an emergency.
- Safety watchdog and advocacy group Kids and Cars urges parents who own older cars to consider buying a trunk-lever retrofit kit.