As summer heats up, heatstroke will increasingly become a public health risk. Unfortunately, that means many children will suffer. Did you know that, outside of car accidents, heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children in the United States? Government agencies, health care advocates, the legal community, and others, however, are raising awareness about the issue on July 31st during National Heatstroke Prevention Day. 

It is commonly assumed that children are left in cars on hot days by irresponsible parents who do not particularly care about the child’s well-being. Most incidents, however, occur by mistake or when a child gets trapped in an unattended car. It only takes a few minutes for tragedy to strike, especially as children have smaller bodies and are more susceptible to elevated temperatures.

According to the National Safety Council, child heatstroke accidents can occur on cloudy days and in temperatures as low as 60 degrees. Depending on the conditions, temperatures inside a motor vehicle can be much higher than outside and leaving the windows down will not necessarily help. Since 1998, nearly 800 children have died as a result:  

  •     54 percent were mistakenly forgotten by a parent or caregiver
  •     26 percent gained access to an unattended vehicle 
  •     18 percent were intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult
  •     1 percent is unknown

Fifty-two children died from vehicular heatstroke in 2018, the most on record.

 Parents, caregivers, and other adults should never, ever leave a child in a vehicle alone, not even for a minute. The potential consequences could be severe injury or death, a lifetime of regret, and being arrested and jailed.

To help reduce the number of preventable heatstroke deaths, remind other adults who drive your child about heatstroke prevention. Also, talk to your kids about how cars are not play areas. Always check your vehicle before locking it and walking away, especially if it is an SUV.

Children are vulnerable and they rely on adults to meet their needs. National Heatstroke Prevention Day is an opportunity to protect them and teach others about critical summer safety tips. Contact our office for more information or for guidance about navigating related legal challenges.