Until relatively recently, it was customary to let the child ride in the front. While this proved to pose a greater safety risk in case of a collision, it also made the child’s presence difficult to overlook when leaving the car.
In the 1990s, with airbags coming into widespread usage, the risk to children riding in the front seat became clear, and soon it became a legal requirement for children to be in the back seat, either in a safety seat or a booster with a harness, or, if old enough, in the regular seat wearing a seat belt. This decreased the number of fatalities and injuries in collisions, but dramatically increased the number of children suffering heatstroke because their parent or guardian left them in the car.
Between 30 and 50 children die every year in the US after suffering heatstroke in a hot car. Sometimes, in about 20% of the cases, a parent leaves the child in the car purposefully, thinking the errand would not take long and usually in the belief that this would be safer and reduce the stress for both the child and the parent. Other times unsupervised children manage to get into the car and are then unable to get out. But over 50% of car heatstroke incidents in children happen when children are left in the car unintentionally, and around half of these deaths involve infants younger than 2 years.
You cannot overestimate the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a car. In relation to heat, on a 70°F day, the temperature inside the car rises to 89°F in 10 minutes, 99°F in 20 minutes, 104°F in 30 minutes, 113°F in one hour. Keep in mind also that children’s bodies are less capable of dealing with heat than adults’, and that rolling the windows down a bit doesn’t make a difference.
The emotional toll these incidents take is immense, and there can be serious legal consequences as well. The caretaker is persecuted in around 50% of hot-car deaths, and these cases result in a conviction 80% of the time.
Given the enormous stakes involved, if you are driving children, especially young children who may stay quiet for longer periods of time, you need to think of ways to childproof both your car and your driving practices, to prevent such tragedies.
A childs life is precious and at all cost, SimpleToFinishTrafficSchool, wants to help ensure your childs safety. If you have children, please remember these steps detailed above. Happy safe driving for all of us.