Child dies after being left in a hot car, pushing national death toll to 19 this year

Olivia Sanchez

A 3-year-old boy died Tuesday in a parking lot at the University of Southern Indiana after being left strapped in a carseat all day, according to the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office.

Vanderburgh County Coroner Steve Lockyear identified the child as Oliver Dill. Oliver's father discovered him and sought help from the University of Southern Indiana Children's Center around 1:45 p.m., according to the Evansville Courier & Press. The boy later died.

Oliver is the 19th child to die in a hot car in the United States this year, according to NoHeatStroke.Org, an effort to track vehicular heat stroke deaths backed by the National Safety Council.

A car can heat up 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and become deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the body temperature of a child rises at three to five times the body of an adult. 

The child was found in early-afternoon and had been in the car since early morning, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. The weather in Evansville on Tuesday was 92 degrees, according to weather.com.

Police have not identified the father.

Jan Null, a research meteorologist at San Jose State University, has spent nearly the past two decades studying child vehicular heatstroke, and tracking the deaths on NoHeatStroke.Org. He said that caregivers forgetting about children in the backseat account for more than half of deaths.

“The biggest hurdle to overcome is the thought ‘I would never forget my child’,” Null said. Parents who refuse to admit they could ever be capable of forgetting their precious child are less likely to invest in preventative technology, he said.

NoHeatStroke.Org reports that more than 800 children have died of heat stroke in hot cars since 1998, and federal lawmakers are trying to solve this problem by introducing bills that would require all new cars be equipped with technology which would sound alarms if a child was detected in the backseat after the car was locked.

Null’s data shows that about half of deaths result after a caregiver unintentionally leaves a child in a car, 26 percent of deaths are the result of a child gaining access to a car themselves, and become trapped, and the remaining 19 percent of deaths occur when a caregiver intentionally leaves a child in the car.

Although Null tracks deaths, he also spends a great deal of his time working with advocates raising awareness to prevent these tragic deaths.

In addition to rear seat motion sensors and apps like Kars 4 Kids Safety which reminds drivers to check the backseat after driving, here are some other ways to prevent your child from overheating in a hot car: 

  • Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When you put your child in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to the passenger seat as a visual reminder.
  • When you buckle your child in the back seat, leave your lunch, keys or cell phone next to them, something you can’t carry on your day without.
  • Ask your child’s preschool or daycare to call you if they are not dropped off at the normal time.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times when not in use, keep keys out of reach of children, and teach children that the car is not a play area.
  • Remember that it is never OK to leave a child in a car unattended. Even for things like running into the convenience store, or going back inside the house to grab something, “If you’re out of arm's reach you’re probably too far,” Null said.

Contributing: Evansville Courier & Press, Asbury Park Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Child dies after being left in a hot car, pushing national death toll to 19 this year