Wicker Advocates Hot Car Tragedy Prevention

Simple Steps Can Keep Children Safe This Summer

May 6, 2024

As the school year wraps up, Mississippi families look forward to lots of playtime under the summer sun. Unfortunately, the increasing heat also raises the danger children face when left unattended in cars.

Children cannot regulate their body temperatures as well as adults can, and it takes just ten minutes for a car to get 20 degrees hotter. Those factors place children at acute risk of vehicular heatstroke.

A database at noheatstroke.org reports that nearly 1,000 children nationwide have died in hot cars from 1998 to 2023. During that time, Mississippi had the highest child vehicle heatstroke fatalities rate per capita. These cases occur most often from May to September, so we must be especially vigilant during the next few months.

Too many Mississippians have had to bear the loss of children whose lives were cut short by heatstroke. I have met with some of these families and heard their heartbreaking stories. To keep future sorrows from happening this summer, I encourage everyone to follow a few best practices.

Take Steps to Protect Children

Hot car death is preventable. The simplest way to protect children from it is to never leave a child in a car. This rule applies even to quick runs into grocery or convenience stores. Some caregivers lose track of time on these errands, not realizing that it takes minutes for tragedy to strike.

In other instances, caregivers accidentally forget to take the child out of the backseat when arriving at their destination. They may have become lost in their thoughts, or the child may have fallen asleep. Everyday reminders can help make up for that absentmindedness. Some childcare experts recommend putting a briefcase, cellphone, or purse next to the car seat. Others advise having day care centers give parents a call if the child has not been dropped off at the usual time.

Anybody can pitch in to keep children safe. Every car owner should keep their vehicles locked at all times so children do not climb inside while adults are unaware. Concerned citizens should immediately call 911 if they see a child left alone in a car.

Auto Industry Making Cars Safer

Education campaigns can help the public be more alert to this risk, and technology also plays a role in the solution. A few years ago, I introduced legislation that would require auto manufacturers to build warning systems into new vehicles to help prevent children from being left behind.

The auto industry took note of my bill and reached a compromise, in which car manufacturers voluntarily stepped up to build such systems.

Mississippi hosts manufacturing plants for both Nissan and Toyota. Both companies have committed to adding this technology to their vehicles, and they have built alerts prompting drivers to check the backseat after parking. Last year, they both reported that over 95 percent of their vehicles were equipped with these features.

In my negotiations with the auto industry, we set model year 2025 as the implementation deadline for these new features. I applaud the automakers who have fulfilled their promise to Congress, and I look forward to the rest following suit.

This Summer Can Be Different

So far, there have been no reported child hot car deaths in 2024. As the spring and summer heat sets in, the risk will increase. By keeping a few best practices in mind and by continuing to incorporate new technology, we can keep that number at zero this summer and into the future.