The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that children dying from being trapped inside hot cars has reached a record high. Children dying from heatstroke in cars, either because they were left or became trapped, has resulted in 53 child deaths in 2018, the most in more than 20 years.
This year, there have been 40 such deaths as of September 9, according to NoHeatstroke.org.
More than half of vehicular heatstroke cases from 1998 to 2018 were because an adult forgot about a child, according to reports. The trends in these incidents is as follows:
About 44% of the time, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at daycare or preschool.
The end of the workweek, Thursdays and Fridays, saw the highest number of deaths.
You might be wondering how this happens, but this is an issue that has affected many families. Our Citrus County Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton hope this will serve as a reminder to keep you alert, avoiding distractions, and putting safeguards in place so your child is never left in the backseat.
Tips for Adults With Children in the Car
Hot car deaths occur most often because the person forgets there is a child in the back seat. Leave something, such as your purse, wallet, or phone in the back seat. This will require you to check the area before you leave your vehicle.
Vehicular heatstroke deaths do not just happen when a child is forgotten. The second leading cause (26%) of such deaths are children getting into unattended vehicles, according to NoHeatstroke.org. The best habit to avoid this is to lock your car doors and trunk, year-round. The temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees, even when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees. Temperatures can reach over 125°F in 20 minutes for a vehicle left in the summertime heat. The temperature can reach 140°F within 40 minutes which is a temperature increase of over 45° above the temperature outside the vehicle.
Tips for Keeping Children Out of Cars
All types of vehicular heatstroke deaths are entirely preventable, but the third leading cause of these deaths—knowingly leaving a child—is the most preventable. Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.
If you happen to see a child alone in a vehicle:
- Check to see that the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
- If the child appears to be okay, try to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over an intercom system.
- If the child is not responsive and appears to be in distress, do everything you can to get to the child, even if it means breaking a window. Just like many states, Florida has “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency. According to the Florida Good Samaritan Act, “any person, including those licensed to practice medicine” who willingly, and in good faith, provides emergency care or treatment to another in an emergency situation shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of such aid or treatment.
Heat stroke can happen relatively quickly in Florida’s climate.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion are:
- dark urine
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- damp skin
Symptoms of heat stroke are:
- fever in excess of 104°
- loss of consciousness
- rapid shallow breathing
- weakened pulse
- irrational behavior or confusion
So, what is the law on leaving children unsupervised in a vehicle? Under Florida law, Section 316.6135, “A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child younger than 6 years of age may not leave the child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes.”
Children and hot cars can be a lethal combination. Our Citrus County Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton want to remind you to not take any chances when it comes to the safety of your child. Always look in the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.