STILLWATER, Okla. – Now that summer has officially arrived, Oklahomans are expecting the temperature to heat up even more. With temperatures in the upper 90s and even hitting the triple-digit mark in some parts of the state, it is important to keep safety in mind.
Laura Hubbs-Tait, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension parenting specialist, said it is especially important never to leave a child in a parked car.
“This is true at any time because unattended children can release a parking brake and harm themselves or others. And, children left in parked cars may die from hyperthermia (overheating) at any time of the year because of the rapid increase in interior temperature in closed cars,” Hubbs-Tait said. “Oklahoma laws prohibit child negligence, abuse and endangerment.”
Gina Peek, OSU Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist, said in the summer’s heat, children left in cars are even more at risk for serious, rapid harm.
“Even when the windows are rolled down, the temperature inside a car can rapidly increase because dark dashboards and other interior features of the car quickly reach very high temperatures,” Peek said. “When the outside temperature is 80 degrees, the inside of a vehicle can reach deadly temperatures of 125 degrees within an hour. If it’s 93 degrees outside, the internal car temperature can jump to 125 degrees in just a matter of minutes.”
When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. This extreme heat can cause permanent injury or death. Extreme heat affects infants and small children disproportionately. Heat can quickly overwhelm a child’s small body and affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
“It can be easy to get distracted and forget a child is in the car. However, distraction can result in health risks and even the death of a child,” Hubbs-Tait said. “When you get home from work or from running errands, check to make sure all of the children are out of the car. Under no circumstances should you leave a sleeping child in the car. Always get the children out of the vehicle first – before unloading groceries or other items.”
Other safety tips include:
- Teach children not to play in or around cars.
- Always lock car doors and trunks, even at home, and keep keys and remote entry devices out of children’s reach.
- Watch children closely around cars, particularly when you are loading and unloading.
- Beware of child-resistant locks. Teach older children how to disable the driver’s door locks if they unintentionally become entrapped in a vehicle.
- Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination.
- Do not overlook sleeping infants or toddlers.
- Put a note, sign or object near the driver’s seat as a reminder or place something that you will need at your next stop – for example a purse, your lunch, gym bag or briefcase – on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting. This simple act could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting a child. Remember the slogan “Beat the Heat – Check the Backseat.”
- Be especially careful if you are dropping off infants or children at day care and that is not part of your normal routine. Have your child care provider contact you if your child does not show up on a day he or she is expected.
- Make sure to check the temperature of the car seat surface and safety belt buckles before restraining children in the car. Like the dashboard of your car, these can easily cause skin burns. Use a light covering to shade the seat of a parked car.
“If a child is left in a hot car, call 911 for help immediately,” Peek said.
Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.
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