Children and pets dying or being injured in hot cars is a significant public health problem. The good news is that these tragedies are preventable.
Kids and Car Safety has collected data about at least 8,000 children that were left alone in hot cars or gained access independently into unoccupied cars between 1990 and 2020. Of those, over 990 children lost their lives due to heatstroke and more than 1,200 children were injured. Since last year, PETA documented at least 32 companion animals that have died from heat-related causes. Those are just the cases that were reported and documented—most aren’t.
Tomorrow (6/9), Kids and Car Safety is partnering with animal welfare group PETA for a #HotCarsKill social media blitz to raise awareness about the danger of hot cars on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Memes for use on social media can be found here.
Both children and dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke due to their inability to regulate their body temperature. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult and dogs are unable to sweat causing their body temperature to rise quickly to deadly levels. This combined with the fact that a vehicle acts like a greenhouse which creates a deadly environment for children and pets in cars in a matter of minutes.
Over the past 30 years, child hot car deaths have continued to trend upwards despite widespread education programs and public awareness. On May 12, 2021, the Hot Cars Act (H.R. 3164) was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). The bill calls for technology that can detect the presence of an unattended occupant inside a vehicle and alert the driver and/or others. During the 2019–2020 legislative session, the Hot Cars Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2). It failed to pass in the Senate.
The type of technology called for in the bill is readily available and inexpensive. Diverse stakeholders including families that have been impacted by hot car incidents, public health, safety and consumer organizations, law enforcement and first responders, animal protection groups and others have all voiced support for a technological solution to this problem.
“We truly value our partnership with PETA because no one should ever lose a loved one in a hot car. This new campaign is vital and much appreciated because we all need to work together to ensure children or pets are never left alone in a vehicle, stated Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Car Safety. With this new campaign, #HotCarsKill, more people will be made aware of these dangers and learn how to get involved to save lives, she continued.
“Temperatures inside a parked car soar to dangerous heights in just minutes, so even a ‘quick errand’ can turn deadly for a dog or a child locked inside,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “With the hottest days of summer on the way, PETA is ready with all the tips people need to step in and prevent these heartbreaking tragedies.”
While safety advocates push for technology in all cars, Kids and Car Safety is urging the public to learn what to do if they come across a child or pet in a hot car and to follow their recommended safety tips. The child safety organization offers an emergency window breaking tool that fits on a keychain that can help save a life in an emergency situation. Everyone should have this live-saving tool on their keychain.