Preventing Child Hot Car Injuries and Fatalities
By Emma Harrington, director of injury prevention and education at Shepherd Center
Recent heat waves have prompted many important conversations around hot weather safety, including what we should consider to prevent child fatalities in hot cars. While we have experienced a decrease in hot car deaths since the pandemic began in 2020 (zero in Georgia 2020-2021), those numbers are starting to rise again at an alarming rate, with Georgia having the most deaths so far this year. Since 1998, 917 children have lost their lives in hot cars. As we veer back into the fast lane of our busy lives, it is important to take a culture of safety with us. Here are some tactics I recommend.
Top Tips to Prevent Hot Car Injuries and Fatalities for Children
- Leave your phone, purse, or briefcase in the backseat. Accidents happen to even the most attentive, loving caregivers. For example, factors like sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on cognitive abilities. Create a system like leaving items in the backseat to ensure you always check for your child before locking up the vehicle.
- Even if it is relatively cool outside, do not leave a child in the car. Cars heat up very quickly. It only takes 10 minutes for a car’s temperature to rise 20 degrees. Children cannot regulate their body temperature like adults, so even if it’s cool outside or you park in the shade, bring them with you.
- Keep your car locked when at home or parked. Kids can and do use the car as a hiding spot and a jungle gym. Ensure they cannot get into the car by locking it when you are not present.
- Teach your child to unlock your car door from the inside and practice. Just like you teach your child to memorize their phone number and recognize helpers, this should be in every family’s safety training. Begin practicing as soon as your child is cognitively ready.
- Get your car seat checked by a certified car seat technician. A culture of safety begins now. 75% of us install our car seats incorrectly. Learn how to do it right, every time. Find a certified technician near you here.
- Low tech to high tech solutions. From simple lanyards that clip into the car seat to high tech sensors and alarms that alert you when the baby is left in a car there are many options out there to suit every budget.
- Bonus tip: Remember your pets. Temperatures as low as 57 degrees can become deadly in minutes. Avoid leaving your furry friends in the car, as well.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.