Summer is a time for fun vacations, outdoors and family, but due to the heat the summer brings, it is paramount to remember the importance of child safety, especially when traveling to and from different locations during these months. According to the National Safety Council on Motor Vehicle Safety Issues (2021), the average number of deaths of children 15 and younger due to heat stroke from being left in a vehicle is 23 yearly. In 2020, the number of child deaths caused by heat stroke from being left in a hot vehicle was 38 (National Safety Council, 2020).

Vehicular heat stroke can still occur in weather that is not overwhelmingly hot. According to McLaren, Null, and Quinn (2005), it takes approximately one hour (60 minutes) for the inside of a vehicle to heat up to 117° F when the outside temperature is a mild 72° F. Although cracking windows may seem like a good idea to cool the inside of a vehicle, studies show that it does not work to cool the vehicle or decrease the temperature within the vehicle (McLaren et al., 2005). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2019), “a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s does.”

To prevent vehicular heat stroke from happening to a child, there are a few tasks and measures you can do and take. First, it is important to always remember to check the backseat of your car, making sure there are no children left behind in your car. This is a good habit to get into, even when your children are not in the car with you. One suggestion to help you get into this habit is to put important items, such as a wallet, purse, or items needed for the day, in the backseat of the vehicle. This forces you to go into the backseat of your vehicle, even if children are not with you. Another safety measure to take is to always lock your vehicles. Children are curious and can wander into vehicles to play and can get locked in them unintentionally. Lastly, if another person is responsible for getting your child to and from places, such as daycare, ask your daycare provider to notify you if your child is more than 10 minutes late.

According to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code 75 Pa.C.S.A § 3701.1. (1991, 1993, & 2006), “A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.” Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle can result in charges, such as child abuse and neglect.

Emily Mackereth is an intake caseworker for Adams County Children and Youth Services. She is a graduate of University of Lynchburg and enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family.

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