Summer meltdown – don’t leave kids or pets in the car

Annual Mishap Causes Anguish for Families

This year, as we live through the stress and momentous change of an historic global pandemic, summer’s warm, sunny days gives us a chance to physically and emotionally lighten up. It’s the perfect time to spend time in the sunshine – albeit with sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and now socially distanced and masked! But even so, there’s no better time to get outside and fully enjoy ourselves with friends and family.

One thing to keep in mind is while the rays of summer feel good, the buildup of heat in an enclosed car, even when parked for a short time, creates dangers to small humans and pets.

The Numbers are Grim

According to Safe Kids Worldwide:

  • On average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. In more than half of these deaths, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car.
  • A car can heat up 19 degrees in just 10 minutes. And cracking a window doesn’t help.
  • Young children are particularly at risk, as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.

The numbers are even more frightening for child vehicular heatstroke death as cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Each case below ended with the death of a child and the planning of a funeral:

  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2019: 52
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2018: 53
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2017: 43
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2016: 39
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2015: 25
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2014: 32
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2013: 44
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2012: 35
  • Child vehicular heatstroke deaths for 2011: 33


Prevention: Remember to ACT

Thankfully, Safe Kids recommends several things people can do to avoid these tragedies.

Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute, and not even with the windows down or partway down.  And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not inside so kids don’t get in on their own. 

Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place and secure something essential to you – your phone, briefcase, purse, even a shoe – in the backseat when traveling with your child.

Take action. Make “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the call. Be sure all occupants, including sleeping babies and pets, leave the vehicle.

Technology Helps: Look for the Rear Seat Reminder

In the past few years, car companies have started implemented a new safety feature to help prevent these kinds of heat-related injuries. By 2025, it’s expected to be standard equipment. It’s called the Rear Seat Reminder. Here’s how it works:

Rear Seat Reminder monitors a vehicle’s rear doors. The system activates when either rear door is opened and closed up to 10 minutes before the vehicle is started or while the vehicle is running. Once the system is activated, the vehicle is designed to sound five chimes and display a message in the driver information center that reads “Rear Seat Reminder / Look in Rear Seat” the next time the vehicle is turned off. Some systems may even send you a text message.

Next time you’re in the market for a new or pre-owned vehicle, be sure to ask about this great safety development.

Finally, if you see a child alone in a car, call 911. We want you to call. We need emergency responders to get there as soon as possible. Every minute counts. The difference can save a life and prevent a family from suffering the loss of beloved child or pet.