More kids are dying after being left in hot cars, according to child safety group that argues car safety features may be to blame.
The non-profit group kidsandcars.org says that 14 children have died from heat stroke this year after being left in cars. The group says the deaths are an unintended consequence of front seat airbags and rear-facing car seats – features meant to keep kids safe.
In 1990, about five children a year died from heat stroke after being left alone in a vehicle, according to the group. But by 1995 – about five years after front seat airbags became standard, sending kids to the backseat – the number had risen to 25.
Now, an average of 38 children die in hot cars each year, according to kidsandcars.org.
“There certainly is a relationship between putting kids in the backseat and the increase in children inadvertently being forgotten in cars,” said the group’s vice president, Sue Auriemma.
Although the organization has no data on whether rear-facing car seats compound to the problem, Auriemma said they certainly could because parents no longer have eye contact with their children when looking in the rear-view mirror.
More than half of children who die after being left in hot cars are under the age of two, a recent San Francisco State University study found. That’s roughly the age that most child safety organizations recommend keeping children in rear-facing car seats.
“Statistics clearly show that a child is safer in the backseat of a vehicle until the time they are 13 years old,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “We want to remind everyone that the best way to prevent heatstroke is by remembering to never leave a child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”
Auriemma said even the best parent can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car. To avoid tragedy, kidsandcars.org recommends the following safety measures:
- Place a large stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when not in use. When you put your child into the seat, move the stuffed animal to the front seat as a reminder your child is in the back.
- Leave your purse or brief case on the backseat out of reach of your child. Auriemma said this forces you to check the backseat before you leave the car.
- If your child doesn’t show up to daycare or school at the expected time, arrange to have an administrator call you to check in. Make sure all adults know your child’s routine and any changes you make to it.