Is your car too hot for your kids? What you need to know to keep them safe.
The rising temperatures throughout the country leave young children at risk for injury or even death if they are left in a hot car. In fact, there is an average of 38 heatstroke deaths each year. Heatstroke happens when the body is not able to cool itself quickly enough. Small children’s bodies heat up much up to 5x faster than adults.
According to Consumer Reports’ testing, the temperatures within a car parked during mid-day hours can rise to dangerous levels quicker than you might think. They warn, “Our experts found that when it was 61° F outside, the temperature inside a closed car could reach more than 105° F in just an hour, an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal level for a child.”
You might think that such an accidental death would never happen to you but research has shown that really anyone can forget a small child in a car. Be extra alert when there is a change in your routine, like when someone else is driving your child or you take a different route to work or child care. Many tragedies can be avoided. Here’s our list of car features, products, and other ideas to help keep your young children safe when your vehicles heat up.
Buy a car with a rear seat warning system
More and more new cars, especially those with 3 rows, are coming out with back seat warning systems. If you are in the market for a new car, look for these kinds of systems.
First introduced in the 2017 GM Acadia, the End of Trip Reminder System visually shows the warning in the dashboard and emits a sound if a back door has been opened during the trip reminding drivers to check the back seats before exiting the vehicle. In addition to many brands, the 2022 Acura MDX has this feature.
An Occupant Sensing System senses motion in the car. This technology uses ultrasonic sensors to detect back seat motion after the car has been locked. To date, the brands with this system are Kia, Hyundai and Genesis. A subscription service even notifies drivers via a phone alert or email. While this system has its limitations like if a baby is sleeping, advances are being made. For example, the 2022 Genesis GV70 system can even detect the breathing motions of a sleeping child.
Use this helpful Consumer Reports chart to search for cars with these safety features.
Safety Tips for Vehicles without Air Conditioning
- Park in the shade and drive during the cooler parts of the day whenever possible.
- Get tinted windows. They reflect up to 78% of the sun’s heat, helping ensure that your car remains cooler, especially for back seat passengers.
- Seat covers save bare legs and arms and keep your body cooler.
- Purchase a portable air conditioner.
- When on a long drive, take breaks where the family can get out and sit in the shade with cold drinks.
Other Hot Car Safety Tips and Tricks
There are a couple no-cost strategies to keeping your child safe. If you are a solo driver with a small child, place one of their items on the passenger seat. A small toy, sippy cup, anything that will remind you that they are behind you. Also, you can put your purse or briefcase in the back seat, ensuring you will open the rear door of the car to retrieve that item and your child.
You can also plan ahead a little and pack for the heat.
- Bring one cold drink per person for every 1-2 hours you’ll be driving
- Pack damp towels in a cooler. A cool touch can soothe a hot child. A cool pacifier can help with heat AND teething.
- Keep cool snacks that won’t make kids thirsty like grapes, peaches, plums, etc.
Another good tip to prevent burns is to have your children avoid touching metal parts in a hot car like door handles and seat buckles. Use a small rag or even a tissue to serve as a barrier to your hands. And if your kids are old enough, give them one to use to protect their hands as well.
Products to help reduce car temperatures
These products DO NOT replace removing your child from a hot car altogether, they are meant to help minimize the heat while you are driving, or temporarily parked, like in a school pickup line.
We like the EcoNour’s Rear Window Sun Shade. It covers the entire rear window while still allowing the driver to see through it. From electric windows to manual windows, you can still roll up and down the window as usual. Feel the breeze and let the wind flow in.
Unlike screens that you can see through, these shades are best for times when you don’t need rear window visibility. Say, the drive-thru.
This helps keep your car cooler when you need to leave it parked in the sun. This way, when you come back to the car, it’s a little cooler for everyone to get back inside. When you have one of these, park facing the sun to help keep your car coolest.
If you have a car with a broken air conditioner (or without one), a portable A/C can keep the air approximately 30-40 degrees cooler in small spaces. Many can be plugged into a car charger. Secure it with a safety strap so it doesn’t jostle around the car.
Awareness that heatstroke can occur is the first step to preventing hot-car incidents. Adopting some of these habits and strategies should help keep you all safer and cooler.