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Child hot car deaths on pace to break last year's record

Posted at 8:24 AM, Oct 16, 2019

The number of children who have died as a result of being left in a hot vehicle is on pace to break last year's record, according to two different sets of data.

According to the National Safety Council, 51 children have died this year as a result of being left in a hot car. Advocacy group Kids and Cars reports that 52 children have died in hot cars this year. Both figures are on pace to surpass 2018's number of hot car deaths, which was the deadliest year for child hot car deaths in the past 20 years, according to the NSC.

The NSC reports that 53 children died in hot cars in 2018, while Kids and Cars reports that 54 children died in hot cars last year.

The most recent reported death in 2019 was a 1-year-old in Tampa, Florida. Police are calling the death an accident. Investigators said the girl’s father was using two vehicles to get people to school and work and accidentally left the girl in one of them.

This is not an uncommon occurrence, according to Kids and Cars. The nonprofit child safety organization says more than half of child hot car deaths happen by accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found similar trends. According to the federal agency, about 44 percent of the time, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at daycare or preschool. In addition, the end of the work week — Thursdays and Fridays — saw the highest number of deaths, the NHTSA says.

The NSC offers the following tips for caretakers to ensure they don't leave children in hot cars:

  • Make it a routine to open the back door of your car every time you park.
  • If you are driving a child, after you correctly buckle them in a car seat or booster seat, put something you need at your destination in the back seat so you will open the back door: a cellphone, employee badge, handbag, or other item you need to keep with you … even your left shoe!
  • Ask your babysitter or child care provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. Place it on the front passenger seat as a reminder when the child is in the back seat.
  • Set the alarm on your cellphone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop your child off at child care. Remember to make the alarm song/sound different from all other alert sounds on your device.
  • If you have a change in routine, such as your spouse or parent dropping your child off at child care instead of you, make sure you and the other person communicate to confirm the drop-off was made.
  • Consider technology that alerts drivers to check the back seat. (Vehicle and child restraint manufacturers have been working on various evolving alert systems and some technologies are available now!)