Experts are warning parents to remember their children in their vehicles: leaving children behind in a car during the summertime can be lethal. In 2019, 52 children died from heat after being left behind in vehicles; this year, 2 children have perished from the same. The most recent hot car death was 10 month old Kaisley McBride who died after being left behind in a car for four hours in Clewiston, Florida in May.
On May 26, officers from the Clewiston Police Department were joined by Hendry County EMS to help an “unresponsive infant.” First responders determine that McBride was in the car for an “unknown amount of time and was dead”. Neighbors said the 10 month old was left in the hot car all day. Because the police were “unsure where the death had occurred due to the probable mobility of the vehicle during the day”, the case was handed over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for further investigation.
According to NoHeatstroke.Org, the majority of hot car deaths, amounting to 54% of them, happen because someone forgets a child in a car. About 46% of the time a child was forgotten, the caregiver had planned to drop the child off at a care facility such as a daycare or preschool. Almost 75% of all children who are forgotten and die are under 2 years old.
Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees F. At that point, the ability for a human to regulate their temperature and bodily functions fails. At first, symptoms of heatstroke include dizziness, disorientation, confusion, sluggishness, loss of consciousness, and rapid heartbeat. Once the body temperature climbs to 107 degrees or greater, internal organs begin to shut down and human cells are damaged. It is at this point death can quickly occur. This is especially true in children; small bodies can’t regulate body temperatures as efficiently as an adult’s; as such, a child’s body can warm 2-3 times faster than that of an adult.
Automobiles can become deadly ovens in the summer. When the outside temperature is only 70, the temperature inside a vehicle can climb to 113 degrees in an hour. On a 95 degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can warm to 138 degrees in an hour.
Authorities warn drivers to never leave a child in an unattended car, even with the windows down. Drivers should make it a habit to open the rear door of the car every time they park to ensure no one is left inside. Children have also been known to sneak into cars on their own, becoming trapped and dying as a result. To prevent that, authorities recommend that people keep their vehicle locked at all times, even when it is inside a garage. Authorities also recommend that keys never be left within reach of children. If a child is ever missing, people should immediately check the inside, floorboards, and trunk of all vehicles in the area.
On average, a child dies in the United States every 8 days from being left behind in a hot car.