Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car

Children, cars and heat are a potentially deadly combination. Between 1998 and 2006, more than 320 children — most of them 3 and younger — died from heat stroke while trapped in a vehicle.

Most parents know the importance of buckling up their children on every ride, but nearly 10 percent of motor vehicle-related deaths are considered non-traffic-related. These include incidents that occur somewhere other than on a public thoroughfare — for example, when vehicles strike children in parking lots or driveways, or when children are left alone in vehicles.

Research and an examination of real-world incidents reveal that more than a third of the children who died were accidentally left in a closed, parked vehicle by parents or caregivers, and another third were trapped while playing unattended in a vehicle. Sadly, one in five children who died was intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.

Leaving a child in a vehicle for a “quick” errand is a huge mistake because a delay of just a few minutes on a warm day can lead to tragedy.

Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. This condition, known as hyperthermia, can cause permanent injury or death.

According to research conducted by San Francisco State University, even when temperatures are relatively cool outside — 70 degrees — the inside of a car can reach a temperature that can be dangerous to children in just minutes.

Safe Kids Worldwide and General Motors remind parents and caregivers about the dangers of allowing children to play in or around cars. Vehicles are not toys or babysitters and children of any age should never be alone in or around them.

Parents and caregivers should:
• Teach children never to play in, on or around vehicles.
• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute or with the window slightly open.
• Always lock a vehicle’s doors and trunk, especially at home. Keep keys and remote entry devices out of children’s reach.
• Watch children closely around vehicles, particularly when loading and unloading. Ensure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
• Be especially careful if you’re dropping off infants or children at day care and it is not part of your normal routine.
• Place your purse, lunch bag or briefcase — something you always carry — on the floor of the back seat where your child is sitting. This simple act could help prevent you from forgetting a child.