PENNSYLVANIA, USA — It's not uncommon for outside temperatures during the summer to reach into the 90s. When that happens, it can feel 35 degrees hotter inside a car.
Common sense says there's no way a parent would keep a child inside a vehicle where temperatures on a hot day can feel like they're at least 125 degrees, and yet, it happens far too often.
"We think it will never, ever happen to us as parents, or as babysitters, or as grandparents," said Shannon DePatto, an injury prevention specialist at Penn State Children's Hospital in Derry Township, Dauphin County. "There is a high potential that this can happen to anyone."
DePatto attributes this not to anything malicious, but most parents or caregivers tend to have so much on their minds, or so many distractions on a daily basis, it can be easy to forget a quiet little one is sitting in the backseat.
In 2020, 26 children died of heat stroke as a result of being locked in a hot car. DePatto acknowledges that total could be due to COVID-19 quarantine and families not leaving the house much. There is a concern it could give parents a false sense of security.
"We didn't travel as much in the last yesr so those numbers are lower. We weren't going places like we used to. Now we are. We're getting back out there. We're taking that time with our families. When we're going from Point A to Point B, we have so many distractions, and you may even have a new routine. This can happen to anyone," DePatto said.
In 2019, there 53 hot car deaths nationwide, and a record-breaking 54 deaths in 2018.
Pennsylvania has not had a hot car death since 2016, and totals 12 since the commonwealth started keeping track of the statistic in 1996.
DePatto says if you realize any child, whether it's yours or someone else's, is trapped inside of a hot car, call 911 and do whatever you need to do to get into that vehicle to get the kid out. As a preventative measure, DePatto recommends leaving necessity items in the backseat as a reminder, like a left shoe.