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Look Before You Lock: Don't Leave Kids In Hot Vehicles

Hot temperatures inside car by SafeKids
Image courtesy of SafeKids Worldwide

As summer heat continues and more young children are being found inside hot cars across the country, AAA Hawaii is cautioning parents, caregivers and motorists not to leave children alone in a closed vehicle and not to allow children to play in or around cars and trucks. On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat exposure after being trapped inside motor vehicles, according to San Francisco State University data.


AAA Hawaii reminds parents and caregivers on National Heatstroke Prevention Day that children can die within minutes inside a hot vehicle.


“Make ‘look and check the back seat for children before you leave the car’ a routine whenever you exit a vehicle,” said AAA Hawaii’s Regional Manager Liane Sumida.


About 51 percent of children in vehicles were forgotten by adults and 29 percent of children were playing in an unattended vehicle, according to researchers.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and younger. In fact, one child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days after being left in a hot vehicle.


Nationwide, 624 children have died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles since 1998, with 18 deaths thus far in 2014.  Last year, 44 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles. In Hawaii, at least two children have died in hot cars, one in 2004 and another in 2007.  Earlier this summer, a Hawaii deputy sheriff saved two children who accidentally locked themselves inside a car while their mother left the car to put money in a parking meter.


“We think that we’re only going to be inside a store for a few minutes, but children under age four are the most at-risk for having their lives endangered by being left in a hot car,” said Sumida. “Children should not be left in a car by an adult, or forgotten because of an adult’s distraction.  If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately.”


Shaded parking, cracking windows open and tinted windows don’t lessen the interior temperature of a closed car, according to pediatric researchers. Doctors warn that if it’s a 90-degree day, it could be at least a life-threatening 130 degrees inside a car.  A child’s body isn’t as efficient as an adult’s and warms three to five times faster, leading to dehydration and heatstroke.


AAA Hawaii urges motorists to:


  • Immediately call 9-1-1- if you notice a child locked and unattended in a car.


  • Never leave car keys or the car remote where children can get to them.


  • Always keep doors and windows locked to prevent kids from playing inside a vehicle.


  • Never leave a child unattended in a car, even if windows are tinted, cracked open or down.


  • Develop “look before leaving” routines.  Ensure all kids exit the vehicle at your destination.


  • Create an electronic device reminder to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare.


  • Leave something needed for the day in the back seat with your baby – a briefcase, purse or your day’s shoe(s).


  • Develop a daycare drop-off plan so that if your child is late or isn’t at daycare, you’ll be called within a few minutes. Some children have been left in office parking lots by distracted adults forgetting to drop them off at day care.


  • If a child is missing, check the car, including the trunk.  If you have a pool, check there first, according to safety experts.


  • Teach children that a car is not a play area.


  • Don’t treat heatstroke at home with cold water or cooling the child in a tub of water. Only a specialist should treat heatstroke.  Seek medical treatment immediately.
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AAA Hawai'i is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the state of Hawai'i.