The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently held a roundtable to discuss possible strategies to lower the risk of vehicular child death. The interior of a car can climb to 119 degrees Fahrenheit in 30 minutes on an 85 degree day, according to The New York Times, and if a child is left in the car, they can quickly overheat and develop hyperthermia.
"We know hyperthermia is a serious threat that needs to be better addressed immediately," said David Strickland, the NHTSA administrator. "A coordinated, targeted approach to increase public awareness of this very serious safety danger should help prevent unnecessary tragedies and near-misses."
The organization reports that hyperthermia is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle death in children under the age of 14. Kids' bodies heat up faster than adults' and they sweat less, so it more difficult for them to regulate their temperature. The NHTSA states that a kid in a car will heat up three to five times faster than an adult.
To prevent kids from getting trapped in cars, parents should keep their vehicles locked at all times, and make sure that the keys are out of reach, so kids can't get inside to play. It is especially important to never leave a child unattended in a car, even if the windows are cracked.
If you travel with a child in the backseat, the unfortunate truth is that you may forget that they are there, especially if they fall asleep or are quiet. One way to eliminate this risk is to put an object in the back seat with the child that you need when you exit the car, such as a phone, wallet or purse. You can also keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When you buckle the child in, put the stuffed animal somewhere you will see it as a reminder that the kid is still in the car. Developing good safety habits can be the first step to lowering the risk of child injury and death.
The NHTSA plans to continue discussions with parents, automotive experts, advocacy groups, and health and law enforcement professionals to develop ways to raise awareness and prevent tragedies.