Summer arrived hard this past month, with temperatures climbing thirty degrees overnight in some cases, and after a long winter, people have started finding themselves climbing the walls to get out and start enjoying summertime. For most, this means camps, sports, vacations…anything that takes the family into sunlight and away from electronics…and most people will get there by automobile.
Automobile vacations are already up for the year, and even more so automobile staycations (there’s a term that will be in dictionaries soon!). Of course we’ve been inundated with a variety of safety talks and commercials to limit accidents. Everything from ‘Click It or Ticket’ to free child safety seat checks are touted regularly in most media forms. Despite this, nationwide there have already been 66 fatalities of children based on automobile accidents THAT WEREN’T COLLISIONS. So what types of accidents could these be? Playing with seat belts, windows, and other vehicle devices account for many of them. Another type of incident is becoming more prevalent, leaving children unattended in the car.
It doesn’t take much, in all honesty, for a perfect day out to become a tragedy. In a car with windows closed, the interior temperature can climb a degree a minute and more for the first half hour, meaning that it’s entirely possible an infant could die of hyperthermia on a comfortable 75 degree day in less than 20 minutes. Children in the past have died on substantially cooler days as the car becomes stifling also, since the body over time loses it’s ability to compensate for the heat building up. Although it’s believed that cracking the windows would make a significant impact, studies have shown this to not be true, as the heat cannot be released as quickly as it builds in the vehicle. An illustration of this type was seen on a large scale in the 1990’s in Chicago, when the heat build up overcame people in their homes and apartments without air conditioning…at that time, fans did little more than push heated air around. Who were the victims? Elderly, children, and the sick.
But we will be driving around this summer…and it will be hot! There will be children in our cars and some of us won’t have air conditioning. So what can be done? Here are some tips to help you make the most of a safe season:
When traveling with kids, whether on business or pleasure, keep your “needs” in the backseat on the floor (be that a cell phone, laptop, or diaper bag). Then you’ll have to go back there every time you stop to get them , reducing the danger of a child being left behind or even temporarily forgotten. Children and infants are small and hard to see, infant seats also face backwards and so you can’t readily see a child in the rearview mirror. Keep them on the passenger side or in the middle of the back seat whenever practical, to improve their visibility to you.
Keep kids in the fluids, and out of the car! Follow pediatrician recommendations for drinking water and other drinks in the heat to keep hydrated, and make sure the car is a “No Go Zone” for kids, who love to play inside parked cars without realizing the dangers even an unlocked car can have for a playful child. Also, practice practicality for your car. Unlock all doors and keep your key in hand or out of pockets and purses when placing your child in the car after or before shopping. Children have been locked in cars at the mall by parents who strapped them in and inadvertently triggered the automatic locks on the car doors. If you’re shopping locally, make sure someone reliable can get access to a spare car key at your house, and call 911 for assistance from Police and Fire Departments. Don’t wait when you discover a problem, a degree a minute on a hot day doesn’t give you the time you think you have!
Lastly- Your child always leaves the car when you do! Even if it’s only “for a second”. There is no inconvenience so great to risk a child’s life, and we have a habit of losing track of time on errands, so play it safe!
For more tips and tricks to child safety in vehicles, please check out www.Kidsandcars.org. Have a great summer, and a safe one with your family!