INDIANAPOLIS — Fifty-one children died in hot cars nationwide last year, including three in Indiana, making it the deadliest year in history for hot car deaths.
Tuesday is National Heatstroke Prevention Day, and the group KidsAndCars.Org is using the day to raise awareness about the problem.
Amber Rollins, director at KidsAndCars.Org told RTV6 the biggest mistake parents make is believing they’re not capable of leaving their child in a car.
“It is really difficult to wrap your head around,” said Rollins. “As a mother, I get it. No one wants to believe they could do something to harm their child.”
Studies have shown that when parents are sleep deprived or they have a deviation in their normal routine, their brains can go on “auto-pilot” which can lead to a child left in a vehicle.
Unfortunately, when caregivers make that mistake, time is not on their side.
The inside of a vehicle can heat up very quickly even with the windows cracked, and 80% of the temperature increase happens in the first 10 minutes.
Heatstroke can set in when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees, and a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult body.
“We have seen children die when it was in the 50’s outside,” said Rollins. “ The reason for that is because the vehicle acts like a greenhouse, so it lets that light come in and there’s nowhere for it to escape. You’ve got a recipe for disaster.”
KidsAndCars.Org is asking parents, grandparents and caregivers to look before you lock.
"Get out of the car and look in the backseat, even if you're not the one who normally transports the child,” said Rollins. “Put something on the floor near your child's car seat that you can't start your day without. For me that would be my laptop, because I work on my computer all day."
Three year old Hannah Grace Miller died in Anderson on June 3 after she made it inside a vehicle and not discovered for several hours.
No criminal charges were filed.
Rollins said approximately 1/3 of all hot car deaths happen as a result of a child getting into the vehicle on their own.
“They see us driving and they want to drive, they see shows with cars and they’re very interested in them, and they just don’t realize that once they get in and they might not be able to get out,” said Rollins.
A 3-month-old boy died in New Albany Indiana on July 23, 2018 after he was left in a hot car parked outside his mother’s workplace.
2-year old Jaxon Stults died in a hot car in Anderson on September 5, 2018.
Police said his mother was drinking and taking a nap when the toddler climbed inside the car and later died.
Britni Nicole Wihebrink of Daleville is charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death and obstruction of justice.
Her jury trial is scheduled for July 8, 2019.
KidsAndCars.Org will soon reintroduce the Hot Cars Act in Congress that will require car manufacturers to use technology that detects the presence of a child.
Tips to Prevent Heatstroke Tragedies:
- Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
- “Look Before You Lock” - Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving your vehicle. Make sure no child has been left behind.
- Create a reminder to check the back seat. • Put something you'll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park. • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare dropoff. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of their whereabouts. If your child will not be attending daycare as scheduled, it is the parent’s responsibility to call and inform the childcare provider. If your child does not show up as scheduled; and they have not received a call from the parent, the childcare provider pledges to contact you immediately to ensure the safety of your child. (this is very similar to the ‘absence-line’ used by most elementary, middle and high schools)
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.
- Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
- Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur.
- Use drive-thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.) and pay for gas at the pump.