On Thursday, Safe Kids joined AAA Oklahoma and local law enforcement to demonstrate how quickly a car can overheat, as well as a mock rescue including what happens when you dial 911 to report an unattended child in a car.
Tulsa First Responders said it’s a simple concept. You put your vehicle in park, and you look before you lock. Only, they said all too often, these steps can get overlooked.
The US Department of transportation confirms 11 kids have died in the United States from heat-stroke in hot cars this year. That number includes 3 in Oklahoma. Safe Kids Tulsa Area representatives said looking before locking your car could mean the difference between life and death.
“On April 25, we saw the first vehicular heatstroke death of 2020, when a 4-year-old left a home and climbed into a vehicle without his family noticing,” said the National Highway Traffic Administration. “His death follows 52 hot car deaths in 2019, and a record 53 deaths in 2018.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that when a child is neglected, half the time the caregiver meant to drop the child off at childcare. According to NHTSA, about 75% of the kids who are forgotten, and die are under the age of 2. The end of the workweek accounts for the highest deaths, according to the US Department of Transportation. Mark Madeja is with AAA in Tulsa. He said especially now with the COVID-19 crisis, we have to be extra aware.
"People are being very, very reluctant to take children or older adults into the store,” said Madeja. “'Hey, I'll be right back. I am running a quick errand.’ And if something happens, that baby can be at risk in minutes."
Even if it's not particularly hot outside, the car can quickly overheat. Madeja described this as the greenhouse effect–getting about 19 degrees hotter in just 10 minutes time.
The Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa Fire Department used a special thermometer to show the difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the car.
According to NHTSA, “The temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees, even when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees.”
Madeja said babies heat up three to five times quicker than adults, making them very high risk for heat stroke.
"Call 911 immediately if you see a child in a car, even if the parent comes out right a couple seconds later. That call can be cancelled. The child's life cannot be restored," Madeja said.
Safe Kids Coordinator Beth Washington said she urges parents to keep their keys out of reach of their kids and make sure children know that the car isn’t a place to play.
"If you do leave something in the car that you need, get mom and dad and have them go out and get that item for you,” Beth said.
There are many ways to help remind you a child is in the car, including keeping your work keys separate from your home keys, putting a stuffed animal in the car seat and moving it to the front when 'baby is on board,' keeping your cell phone near the car seat, and even putting your non-driving shoe by your baby.
"You're not going to get out of the car and start to walk, one shoe on one shoe off,” said Madeja. “So please mom and dad, create reminders."
First responders said they warn people against being afraid to get involved if they see a child alone in a car. They said it becomes everyone's business when it is a life or death situation.