IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Heatstroke is the number one cause of death for kids left in cars. 2018 and 2019 were the deadliest years in history for child hot car deaths.
Dr. Ron Porter is a pediatrician at Idaho Falls Pediatrics. He says that children can get heatstroke at temperatures as low as 57 degrees if all the windows are closed and children are left in direct sunlight. He says that children are more at risk of heatstroke than adults if left unattended in a vehicle.
“A car can heat up 20 degrees in 10 minutes," Dr. Porter said. "If they’re left in a warm car, they heat up three to five times faster than an adult does.”
Dr. Porter says when children's body temperature raises to 104 degrees, their major organs can start to shut down. If their core temperature reaches 107, they can die.
“Just don’t ever think it’s going to be safe to leave your kids for just a minute in the car," Dr. Porter said. "Always take them in with you because it’s never safe to leave them in a car.”
Dr. Porter advices to call 911 if you spot a child in a vehicle unattended and you can’t open the door to let them out.
An occupant detection system in cars can prevent hot car deaths. Certain Ford models to include Ranger, Explorer and Expedition include a system called “Buckle Up Buddy.”
Chris Hunt, General manager at Lithia Ford, says it will help parents remember their children in the back seat.
"Buckle Up Buddy" is a setting in the driver information center that vehicle owners can turn on manually. It allows you to see which seatbelts are engaged and gives you an alert if one of them becomes unbuckled. When you leave your vehicle, it reminds you if someone is still buckled up in the backseat.
The feature came out in 2019. Hunt says Ford is taking this issue very seriously and that is why all vehicles will be equipped with some kind of alert system by 2025.
“There’s an average of about 40 kids every single year that pass away due to hot car deaths and people forgetting and leaving them in the car, and that’s pretty staggering numbers,” Hunt said.
Future Ford models will come equipped with visual reminders with weight detection technology. The vehicle will be able to detect if a child is still in the vehicle.
“It would be helpful, especially if there’s any kind of weight on the backseat [you'd] get a little bit more of a harsh reminder,” Hunt said.
Adam Briscoe is the general sales manager at Lithia Ford. He says his Ranger was equipped with "Buckle Up Buddy." He drove with his three kids and his kids often asked him how they knew if they were buckled up. He says it is because of Ford’s alert system.
“What was really nice about it, I could see exactly where all three of them were," Briscoe said, "And then if I had ever turned off the truck, if that buckle was still buckled up, it would actually flash up an indicator that there was still somebody in the back seat. So it warned me that there was still somebody back there.”
Adam says that the technology is extremely useful for vehicle owners with third row seats.
“Having that in there as an indicator to remind parents whether or not their kids are still in the back and they need to get out on a hot summer day? Super duper important," Briscoe said.
Many other newer vehicle brands have similar technology to ensure children are not left alone in hot vehicles.