BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The coronavirus pandemic is affecting nearly every way of life. Now, even the risks surrounding kids getting trapped in hot cars are changing.
According to kidsandcars.org, in a typical year, 25% of hot car deaths occur when a child gets into a vehicle on their own. This year, that number has jumped to 55%. Most of these tragedies happen at home.
According to that same data, 949 children under the age of 14 have died from vehicular heatstroke since 1990. 61 of those deaths happened in California, the state with the third highest number of deaths, behind Texas and Florida.
According to the non-profit's findings, the most recent hot car death in Kern County happened in 2014 when a 5-year-old boy got into a vehicle on his own, and died.
Amber Rollins, the director of KidsAndCars.org, said, "during the pandemic children are at home more hours of the day, more days of the week, and so naturally we are seeing the number of home accidents and injuries with children increase."
Rollins said a lot of these deaths have happened during nap time, and that parents don't realize the child is missing at first because they get outside and into the car when they're supposed to be asleep.
Rollins suggests doing everything you can to make sure toddlers can't sneak outside, like child-proofing or putting sensors on doors, always keep your vehicle locked and the keys out of reach, and teach kids how to gt out if they do get trapped.
Rollins said if your child ever goes missing, cars should be one of the first places you check.
"Just like you would check the pool in the backyard first, a vehicle is an environment that presents an imminent risk to children very quickly. You wanna check this inside, the floorboards, and the trunk of all of the vehicles in the area immediately. And minutes can make a difference for kids trapped in a hot car."
The group is also advocating for Congress to pass the 'Hot Cars Act.' It would require all new vehicles to have systems that can detect a child or a pet in a car when the engine is off. It passed the House of Representatives this month.