This article was first published in July 2015 and has been updated.
It’s a story that happens all too often.
In 2019 there have been 21 child hot car deaths so far.
In June, two kids in Texas died in separate incidents.
A 3-year-old in Indiana died after being strapped into his carseat all day in a hot car.
There are many ways this nightmare scenario happens.
"Kids are very, very curious...They get into the car on their own," said Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Cars, a nonprofit focused on improving child safety around cars.
"For some reason, when people leave their car in the driveway or in the garage, they feel comfortable letting their guard down," Fennell added. "You should never leave your vehicle at home unlocked."
The child is the 19th to die in a hot car in 2016. By this time last year, 10 children had died in hot cars and 700 have died over the past 20 years. Most of the children are mistakenly forgotten. Some of the children crawl into the car without the parents’ knowledge and get stuck. And, a small percentage of children die because their parents believe it’s safe to leave them.
Infants and toddlers are most at risk—87 percent of children who have died in hot cars are under age 3.
“It is quite dangerous for children and infants as they don’t have as great of an ability to regulate their temperature,” says Dr. Richard Saladino, chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “If the outside temperature [is] 90, temperatures [in the car] can increase from 80 degrees to 130 degrees in 10 to 15 minutes.”
This heat causes the core body temperature to increase to 106 degrees, leading to heat stoke.
“The temperatures rise very quickly, rise to such extremes where the body can no longer compensate,” says Dr. Amy Sniderman, pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
Fennell believes overwhelmed, overtired parents forget their children. Many parents believe they have dropped their children off at daycare only to find later the child was still in the car. Or parents don’t realize their kids climbed into the car.
Fennell recommends these 7 tips that every parent should follow:
1. Look before you lock.
Open the backdoor and look in the backseat to assure that everyone is out of the car (even if you think you are childless).
2. Keep something you need in the backseat.
Put your cell phone, briefcase, computer, lunch, ID badge, left shoe, or anything essential to your daily routine beside your child.
3. Travel with a furry companion.
Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When baby is in the seat, the stuffed animal rides shotgun. The furry passenger serves as a reminder that baby’s in the back.
4. Always lock the doors.
Even if the car is in the garage, keep the doors locked to prevent curious children from getting into the car.
5. Put the keys and fobs away.
Kids might want to play with keys and be able to get into the car without parents knowledge.
6. Have a plan with childcare provider.
If your child does not show up to daycare or school without prior notice, someone should call to locate child.
7. If you see something, do something.
If you see a child alone in a car, do not hesitate to call 911.
“The biggest mistake people make is thinking it can’t happen to them,” Fennell says.
“When you say ‘this can’t happen to you’ then you have already decided you don’t need to use these safety tips … it is easier to blame others than to understand that we are all vulnerable.”