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Help prevent heat death tragedies

Every summer, we read about more children who have died after being left in hot cars. According to the National Safety Council, 37 children die this way each year, on average. That’s 37 too many.

According to the NSC, it takes just 10 minutes for a car to heat up enough to cause heatstroke or death. Its report states that 55 percent of the deaths result from a parent or caregiver unknowingly leaving a child behind, 27 percent result from children getting into a car on their own, and 18 were attributed to purposefully leaving a child unattended in the car.

Parents who have lived through this tragedy often cite distraction or “being on auto-pilot” as a factor. They are both rich and poor, black and white. It can happen to anyone.

There are several ways to help jog your memory about a child in the backseat. Leaving bottles or stuffed animals on the front seat can serve as a visual reminder of the passenger in the back. Setting calendar reminders on your phone to prompt you to check the backseat can also help. There are also “smart” features in some cars and carseats that can remind drivers to look in the backseat.

More prevention tips (courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration):

• Look before you lock. 

• Keep your vehicle locked and keep your keys out of reach.

• Take action if you notice a child alone in a car. Protecting children is everyone’s business.

• Never leave a child alone in or around a car for any reason.

• Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.

These tips won’t be enough to stop all hot-car deaths, but they can help prevent some of the tragedies.