NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Every year children die of heat stroke after being trapped in cars. While deaths are down in 2020, a disturbing trend is showing up this year with the largely preventable deaths.
In 2018 and 2019 more than 100 children died in the United States in hot car tragedies. Jan Null is a meteorologist and adjunct professor at San Jose University. Null has been tracking these incidents since 2001.
He said, “Temperatures over 104 when an infant or a small child reaches that stage that’s clinical heat stroke and when their body temperature reaches 107 that’s usually when organs begin failing and deaths can occur rapidly.”
In 2005 he published a study with two Stanford doctors in the Journal of Pediatrics. Null said, “Since that time it’s sort of taken on a life of its own. It’s the go-to study on the topic.”
With more people working from home the raw number of deaths is down so far in 2020. . .But more than half of the 14 children that died got into cars on their own. Most years about a fourth of the fatal accidents happen that way.
Null said, “Teach children that cars are not an area to play in.” He said that’s one of the best ways to discourage the two to four-year-olds that most often get into cars but can’t get out.
He said, “Don’t let them play with those clickers and remote sorts of devices that everyone thinks are cool. Makes the horn honk, but then they know how to get in the car.”
Have children learn to climb into the front seat where they are less likely to run into child locks and have access to the horn. Null said, “Teach them to honk the horn. Lay on the horn and make some noise get some people there to help.”
He said it’s one of the first places to look if a child goes missing.
“Check the pool first and check all vehicles in and around your area,” Null said.
Combine those tips with strategies like putting something you need like a purse, wallet or cell phone in the backseat. Null also reminded, “Get in the habit of look before you lock.” Habits that help prevent children being accidentally left behind.
Null said, “After an hour a car is typically about 43 degrees above whatever the outside temperature is that means on a day like today what New Orleans is going to be like 95 plus you are now looking at temperatures of around 140 degrees inside that car.”
Null spends a lot of time trying to help prevent these deaths through outreach and his website NoHeatStroke.org.
He also said if you see an unattended child in a locked car first call 911, but if you think they are in danger try to get them out.