Child Deaths

July 18, 2011

MILWAUKEE - Summertime brings more than fun and vacation; too often it brings tragedies that could have been prevented. Each year, approximately 38 children die from being overheated in an unattended vehicle. That number drastically increases during the peak of summer. In late May, the tragic death of a 3-year-old boy in a hot car marked the 500th death in the U.S. since 1998. All of these deaths could have been prevented. Since March, there have been 21 incidents of toddlers dying from being shut in a sweltering car. Safe Kids Wisconsin wants to remind everyone of the dangers during this heat wave in hopes of stopping any caregiver or parent from leaving their child alone in a car.

Historically, 51 percent of these accidents occur because of parents unintentionally forgetting their child, likely from a distraction or change in routine. When left unattended by an adult, 30 percent of affected kids gained entry into an unlocked vehicle, became trapped and were overcome by heat. It takes only minutes for a child to be at risk of death and serious, permanent injury in a hot car. Drivers must keep car doors locked and keys out of reach of young children.

Safe Kids Wisconsin urges all adults who transport children to take the following steps:

  • Call 911 if they see a child unattended in a vehicle. 
  • Never leave children alone in a car – even for one minute. 
  • Set their cell phone reminder to be sure they drop their children off at daycare. 
  • Set their computer programs to ask, "Did you drop off at daycare today?" 
  • Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or whatever is to be carried from the car on the floor in front of the child in the back seat. This forces the adult to open the back door and see the child. 
  • Have a plan with their child care providers to call if their children do not arrive when expected. 
  • Keep keys and remote entry key fobs out of children's reach. 
  • Lock all vehicles at all times. 
  • Check cars and trunks first if a child goes missing. 
  • Remind your children that a car is not a playground and encourage them to play away from your vehicle.

By locking cars, creating reminders for ourselves, and acting immediately to assist a child left alone in a vehicle, we can save children's lives.

A member of Safe Kids Worldwide, Safe Kids Wisconsin works to prevent accidental injuries, the leading cause of death among children 14 years of age and younger. The coalition combines the expertise of Safe Kids coalitions and chapters statewide to prevent childhood injuries through collaboration, education, policy and advocacy initiatives. Children's Health Education Center, a member of Children's Hospital and Health System, is its lead agency. For more information, call (866) 228-5670.

Children's Health Education Center, located in downtown Milwaukee, offers resources and programs for children, teachers, parents and caregivers to help keep kids healthy and safe. Last year, more than 90,000 children and adults experienced the center's high-energy health education, including popular field trips and outreach programs. Children's Health Education Center is a member of Children's Hospital and Health System. The health system is able to fulfill its mission thanks in part to philanthropic gifts and support from members of the community. For more information, visit the Web site at