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The Biggest Threat to Small Children is Not Always a Car Accident – the Dangers of Hot Weather

Collisions are not the only type of car accident which can cause injuries to children. In the summer, a car does not have to be in motion for a child to be seriously injured or killed. Each year, children die after being left in a hot car. In fact, since 1998, 454 children in the US have been killed after being left in a hot car. In some cases, children were left for only a short period of time while in other cases, children were left on relatively mild days.

The truth is that children should never be left alone in a car, especially in the summer. Parking in the shade, cracking open the window, or only leaving the child alone for a minute are not adequate excuses. Even in all these cases, children can be seriously injured, dehydrated, or even killed due to suffocation and hyperthermia. On a summer day, temperatures in a car can reach 120 to 140 degrees within minutes. Temperatures can soar that high even with a window rolled down a bit and even on a mild day. Temperatures of 120 to 140 degrees can easily lead to fever, seizures, heat stroke, severe dehydration, and death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety a locked car’s interior can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in three minutes and can reach 125 degrees in six minutes.

There are many ways to prevent these types of tragedies. The best solution is to simply take your child with you whenever you step out of the car, for even a moment. Many parents find it helpful to remove their child from the car first, whenever they step out of the car. This helps prevent any possible oversights. Pinning a reminder to the dashboard can also help. Parents, babysitters, child car providers, and day care workers should also communicate well about expectations regarding child safety and car safety. Proper communication can also help prevent the type of accident which occurs when a child is left in a hot car because one caregiver believes the child is with another caregiver.

While in many cases, misunderstandings between caretakers or a caregiver’s absentmindedness lead to a child being left behind in a car, some children suffocate in a hot car because they inadvertently climb into a car or car trunk without anyone realizing the danger. It is important to keep car doors and trunks securely closed at all times and to hide car keys in a safe location to prevent this sort of tragedy. Many newer models of cars have a trunk release mechanism to prevent children from being locked in the truck of a car. If your car does not have a trunk release mechanism, you can have one installed.

In addition to getting trapped inside cars, burn injuries are another common cause of car-related injury among children during the summer months. In hot weather, the plastic and metal on and in a car can get heated to very high temperatures. When a child’s small hands come into contact with these hot surfaces, burn injuries can happen. While these injuries are relatively minor in most cases, they can cause tears. Supervising children around cars and cooling down a car with air conditioning before allowing a child into the car can help. Some parents also put soft covers over handles and other exposed areas in the car in order to protect children’s hands.

Pedestrian accidents involving children are another common type of car-related injury involving children at this time of year. As more children are home from school, more children are outside, playing. Drivers, not used to additional children on the road, may be unprepared when children dart out between cars or when children play on streets. Careful supervision can help ensure that your children do not play where drivers drive. Also, children need to be reminded at the start of the summer about proper car safety and road safety.