A baby girl died Tuesday after being left in a hot car outside a grocery store in Virginia, according to local media reports.
The 10-month-old girl is the 21st child to die this year after being left in a hot car, according to NoHeatStroke.org, which tracks pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in the United States.
Police responded to a home in Richmond around 2 p.m. local time, according to WTVR. The TV station reported that the woman drove home from the grocery store before calling 911. The relationship between the woman and the baby is unclear.
Richmond police did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
Temperatures in Richmond were in the low 90s in the afternoon hours. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a car can heat up 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and become deadly.
The girl is the third child to die in a hot car in the past week, according to NoHeatStroke.org.
Last Thursday, 3-year-old Daylin Palmer died in Smyrna, Tennessee, after being left inside a car for more than two hours when temperatures reached 95 degrees, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. He died of vehicular heatstroke. The boy’s father, Dylan Scott Levesque, 23, was charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect.
Two days earlier, 3-year-old Oliver Dill died after being left in a car at the University of Southern Indiana. His father is an assistant professor of accounting, according to local CBS affiliate, who realized halfway through the day that he had forgotten his child. It is unclear whether his father, Andrew Dill, will be charged with a crime.
In 2018, 52 children died of vehicular heatstroke after being left in hot cars, according to NoHeatStroke.org. Jan Null, a research meteorologist at San Jose State University, has been researching child vehicular heatstroke since 2001, and running the tracking site for almost as long.
Null said that since 1998 more than 800 children have died after being left in hot cars.
According to his data, Null said 54 percent of child vehicular heatstroke deaths occur after a parent or caregiver unintentionally leaves a child in a car.
“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.
Lawmakers are trying to require that all new cars be equipped with technology that could sound alarms if the presence of a child was detected.
“No one thinks a hot car tragedy can happen to them or their family. That is precisely why technology is necessary. The fact that technology exists to save the lives of children, but is not being included in all new vehicles is inconceivable,” said Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org. “I am heartbroken knowing that families are holding their precious children right now that will no longer have them by the end of summer.”
In addition to rear seat occupant sensors and apps like Kars 4 Kids Safety that remind drivers to check the backseat, 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: Murfreesboro Daily News Journal.