When we think of the safety of kids in cars, the first thing that comes to mind is vehicle crashes and the importance of using car seats and booster seats. However, there are other dangers in and around vehicles that could seriously harm or even kill a child.
Here are some tips on how all of us can work to prevent these injuries and deaths.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non‐crash, vehicle‐related death in children.
Never leave a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures quickly. An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees F.
Put something in the back seat next to the child you are transporting: a briefcase, a purse, or a cell phone that you need at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine. More than half of heatstroke deaths occurred when a distracted caregiver forgot a quiet child was in the vehicle.
Develop a plan with your daycare or child minder so that if your child is late, they call you within a few minutes.
Nearly three in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle. Keep your vehicle locked when you’re not in it.
If you see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations.
Trunk entrapment can be deadly because of a combination of high temperatures and poor ventilation.
Teach children that vehicle trunks are for cargo, not for playing.
Show children how to locate and use the emergency trunk release, found in cars manufactured after September 1, 2001. If your car is older and lacks this ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release, ask your automobile dealership about retrofitting your vehicle with a trunk release mechanism.
Check vehicles and trunks (and swimming pools) right away if your child is missing. If a child is locked in a car, get him or her out as quickly as possible and dial 911 immediately.
Backover incidents also kill or seriously injure many children each year.
A backover incident typically occurs when a vehicle coming out of a driveway or parking space backs over an unattended child because the driver did not see him or her.
Trucks and SUVs are involved in more backover incidents than cars, and drivers in backover (and frontover) deaths are often family members or friends of the injured child.
Before getting in a vehicle, all drivers, even those without children of their own, should walk all the way around their parked vehicles to check for children, or anything that could attract a child, such as a pet or toy.
Make sure to look behind you and back up slowly in case a child dashes behind your vehicle unexpectedly.
For more information about these and other hazards in and around vehicles, see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Child Safety webpage or the Safe Kids webpage on In and Around Cars.
Maureen Johnson is the Child Passenger Safety Specialist at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital/University of Vermont Medical Center. Call 802-847-1215 with any child passenger safety questions or to schedule a free car seat inspection!