Early May marked a tragic milestone: 800 children have died in hot cars since 1998. Four-year-old Riley Taylor died on May 4 after his father left him in a parked SUV while he worked an event in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.
Even though Riley’s father left the window cracked and the temperature never got above 70 degrees, stories like Riley’s are tragically common. In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars, the most of any year on record.
Since the enactment of laws requiring children to sit in backseats in the mid-90’s, hot-car deaths have risen dramatically. The stats on children who die in hot cars are alarming:
- On average, 38 children die trapped in hot cars annually
- July is the deadliest month for hot car deaths
- Sitting in the sun, the inside of a parked car can rise to 130 degrees
- Death can occur at 107 degrees
- 54 percent of children who die in hot cars were forgotten by their caregiver
- The majority of victims of hot-car deaths are between 0 and 5 years old
- Six hot car deaths have happened so far in 2019 alone
Who is at risk?
Hot-car deaths have happened during every month of the year and in all but three states. Hot-car deaths can even happen at temperatures as low as 57 degrees.
Forgetting your child in the car can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, age or class. Distracted parents are more likely to forget their child in the car. “Functionally, there isn’t much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car,” Arizona State University psychologist Gene Brewer said.
Preventing hot car deaths
Your child dying in a hot car is every parent’s worst nightmare, but following several tips can make sure it doesn’t happen to you:
- Leave your phone, purse, wallet or other important item in the backseat with your child as a reminder
- Tell your childcare provider that they should call you if your child is ever late
- Be extra vigilant if there are any changes to your routine
- Avoid distracted driving, especially cellphone use
- Keep your car locked when not in use to avoid a child becoming trapped in it