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Preventing hot car deaths in Singapore. What you need to know.



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Leaving a child or pet in the car can result in heatstroke which can be life-threatening.

This is because the temperature inside a parked car in Singapore can rise rapidly within minutes even with the windows rolled down partially. The inside of a car can reach a deadly 40 deg C even when it is 29 deg C outside.

Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises to 40 deg C or higher. Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat injury and a medical emergency. If left untreated, it can cause organ damage and result in a painful death.

Children and pets cannot regulate their body temperature as well as adults, making them vulnerable to heatstroke as they are unable to get out of an overheated car.

Last August, Singapore Civil Defence officers were called in to rescue a five-month-old baby who had been locked in a car. The baby, thankfully, was unhurt.

But in April last year, a six-year-old boy in Malaysia died from heatstroke after being left in a stationary van for more than three hours. The van driver had not noticed he was still in the van when he locked it.

In another incident, a mother in Texas, United States, left her two toddlers overnight in a car. The girls died shortly after they were taken to a hospital for medical attention.

These tragedies could have been prevented if the adults involved had been more attentive.

Safety features

Some car manufacturers have installed rear seat safety features to help prevent hot car deaths of forgotten pets and toddlers.

Some of these are Nissan’s Rear Door Alert which detects if you have opened a rear door before your journey and alerts you via the dashboard and car horn to remind you to check the backseat after your journey ends. GM and Hyundai have similar features.

However, you should check with your manufacturer before assuming that your new Hyundai or Nissan automatically includes these features as each manufacturer makes different features available for different markets.

While these features are useful, it is impractical for most of us to be changing our cars, especially in Singapore where cars cost a bomb. The good news is there are more affordable ways to recreate the same safety measures in your current car.

Here are some recommendations:

*Leave a stuffed toy in the car seat when it’s not being used and move it to the front when your child is in the back seat.

*Leave your wallet or purse in the back seat so you will always have to open the back door or at least look back to reach over before leaving the car.

*Look for free apps like The BackSeat that will send you reminders about checking your car seat when they sense your car has stopped moving.

These steps will help to prevent forgetfulness. If you are tempted to leave your child or pet behind in the car for the sake of convenience, please don’t. As you now realise, it could put their lives at risk.

Also, the last thing you want is a Good Samaritan breaking open your car window to rescue your child or pet, resulting in damages. Note that your car insurer may not pay for the damages if they deem it to have occurred as a result of your negligence.

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