Consumer Reports: Preventing hot car deaths

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It’s an alarming statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that on average, every ten days, a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle, mostly by accident when someone forgets the child is in the car. Because this could happen to anyone, Consumer Reports has an important warning everyone needs to hear, especially this time of year.

Hot car deaths happen all too often, leaving traumatic scars in their wake. In most cases, the child was unintentionally left inside the vehicle, often with a family's change in routine. – But how can it happen?

We have a powerful brain, an autopilot brain memory system that gets us to do things automatically, and in that process, we lose awareness of other things in our mind, including that there’s a child in the car. 

Even on days with mild temperatures, the heat inside a vehicle can reach dangerous levels within an hour, posing significant health risks to small children or pets left inside.

Children aren’t able to efficiently regulate their body temperature and their bodies can heat up three to five times faster than adults.

A new safety tool: Some car manufacturers have introduced technology that goes beyond just reminding drivers if they leave something behind in the back seat. This new technology could actually detect an occupant.

However, this advancement is not widely available. Consumer Reports advises all parents to create a routine with their own reminders every time they drive. You should create a habit of putting a personal item in the back seat, like your laptop or your phone. This will force you to visit the back seat after every trip. Some people go so far as to say put a shoe in the back seat to give yourself a cue so that you have that reminder when you get out of the car.

It’s an easy behavioral change – enough to trigger the brain to do something different – that could save a life.

And if you’re wondering if a cracked open window or parking in the shade will help cool the car enough, the answer is NO. That’s why it’s important to never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. 


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