Rutgers Health emergency physician offers tips to prevent pediatric vehicular deaths

The statistics and dangers are real. Yet according to the National Safety Council (NSC), on average, there are still more than three dozen children dying in parked cars every year. In 2018, that number climbed to 52. There were three cases that made the news just in the past two weeks.

With each headline we ask, how and why does this continue to happen? As demonstrated in the chart below, the largest number of deaths are caused by children being forgotten in cars. Most think that it could never happen to them. However, the experts say this simply is not true. Dr. Ernest G. Leva, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital says, "Life gets in the way, and when we do things that are off our daily routine, accidents and sometimes tragedies can happen."

Dr. Leva, who provides pediatric emergency services as part of Rutgers Health, suggests creating new routines and reminders. For example, do not toss personal items in the passenger seat. Make a conscious effort to put briefcases, wallets, purses, cell phones and your lunch in the backseat - even when you are not transporting children.

Also, get into the habit of "looking, then locking." Check the backseat before you lock your door.

As a number of summer days still lie ahead, keep the following facts from the NSC in the forefront of your mind:

  • A child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult.
  • Children do not perspire as much as adults, making it more difficult to cool their bodies.
  • On average, vehicle temperatures can rise 19 degrees in only 10 minutes.

Maybe the most surprising fact…

  • Heatstroke can occur when outside temperatures are as low as 57 degrees.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Leva:

Automobiles get real hot, real fast. But parents should never leave children in a vehicle, whether it is hot or not, whether it is for 10 minutes or two minutes. Just don't do it."

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