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Summer is here, and the rising heat brings news stories of the dangers of leaving children unattended in hot cars. One is the tragic case of a 5-year-old Texas boy who died in a hot SUV while his mother was distracted. Unfortunately, every year there are multiple cases of hot car deaths nationwide. That’s why it’s crucial to know the best ways to prevent these fatalities. 

5-year-old Texas child died in a hot car

In late June, a 5-year-old Houston-area boy died in a hot car while his mother was preparing for his 8-year-old sister’s birthday party. According to the mother’s account, she and her two children had returned home from a shopping trip. When she went inside the house with her daughter, she assumed the boy had followed, CBS News reported.

When two or three hours had passed without seeing her son, the mother went out to the car to investigate. Tragically, she discovered him unresponsive and still buckled into his seat. She believes he might have had trouble getting out because the family was traveling in a rental SUV he was unfamiliar with. With the temperature soaring above 100 degrees that day, the boy died of heatstroke in the hot car. 

Here are some statistics that might surprise you

child hot car death, car heatstroke, vehicular heatstroke
Fire and EMS officials demonstrate the dangers of leaving children unattended in hot cars | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the Texas boy’s hot car death was not an isolated event. Every year, dozens of children nationwide suffer a similar fate.

According to Consumer Reports, around 38 children die each year from vehicular heatstroke, which occurs when they become trapped in a car that reaches dangerously high temperatures

Often, when we think of these sorts of cases, we think of distracted parents who accidentally leave their children behind in a vehicle. However, many people don’t realize that about 38% of cases involve children who climbed into the car and ended up trapped. That’s one more reason why it’s essential to be vigilant and lock your car doors and trunk. You’re not just preventing theft —you could also save a life. 

How to prevent hot car deaths

Locking your car is one example of how you can do your part to prevent children from dying in hot cars.

The NHTSA offers these other tips to prevent vehicular heatstroke:

First, if you’re a parent or caregiver of a small child, get in the habit of checking throughout the car before you walk away. Is there any chance that you have left your child behind? It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

In addition, parents often assume it’s safe to leave their child unattended in a vehicle for a few minutes. That is never the case. Car temperatures can rise quickly, even if you crack the windows and park in the shade. A car’s interior can heat up by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, with dire consequences for small children whose bodies can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults. 

Parents can also place reminders throughout the vehicle to help them remember a child in the back. A personal item, such as a purse, set in the back seat will give parents an additional reason to look there and see their child. A note or toy in the front seat can also serve as a reminder.

Even if you’re not a parent, you can play a role in keeping kids safe from vehicular heatstroke. Not only should you always ensure to lock your car, but if you ever encounter a child left unattended in a vehicle, call 911. You could save a life.  


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