12 children have died in hot cars so far this year, report says

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Twelve children have died so far in 2021 after being left in hot cars in the U.S., according to a nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of children in or near vehicles.

The 12 children between the ages of 5 months and 11 years died between April and August, KidsAndCars.org reported.

“This time, this tragedy strikes close to home,” John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, said in a Wednesday statement sharing the numbers and referencing the latest incident, which took place in Springfield, Virginia. “Yet most parents and caregivers think this could never happen to them – they could never forget their child in the backseat of a car.”

Fairfax County police said on Tuesday that authorities found an unresponsive 5-year-old in a vehicle on Grey Fox Drive. Responders transported the child to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, as Fox 5 Washington, D.C., first reported.

Townsend added that “this tragic situation happens repeatedly” in “our fast-paced, sleep-deprived world.”

Half of the children on the KidsAndCars.org list were left in hot cars by family members; two were left by caregivers; one was left by a foster mother; one was simply “left in a vehicle”; and it is unclear how the other two died in hot cars.

One child dies unattended in a hot car every nine days, and nearly 1,000 children have died in hot cars across the U.S. since 1990 — averaging about 39 children per year —  with heatstroke being the leading cause of death, according to KidsAndCars.org. 

More than half of hot-car deaths in the U.S. are caused by adults forgetting children in vehicles while more than a quarter are caused by children playing unattended in them, according to AAA.

“In the summer heat, and during the dog days of summer, a vehicle’s interior can reach lethal temperatures very quickly, essentially creating an oven, causing a child’s internal organs to shut down if left unattended inside,” Townsend said. “Young children should never be left alone in a vehicle under any circumstances. The same is true for pets.”

He added that adults should “make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat before you leave and lock the car” and “put a reminder note” on their dashboards or alarms in their phones so as not to forget to take children out of cars.

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