SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — This week marked the official start of summer and as temperatures are on the rise, so are the number of hot car deaths across the nation.

According to the National Safety Council, so far this year, four children have died because of hot car incidents.

On average, 38 children under the age of 15 die from heatstroke every year after being left in a vehicle. Last year, that number reached the mid-20s.

The Memorial Health Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah hosted a safety event Thursday to remind parents and caretakers about the dangers of heatstroke when children are left unattended in hot cars.

“You want to make sure you never create that habit of leaving your child alone in a car,” Safe Kids Program Coordinator Sam Wilson said. “A hot car can heat up 20 degrees in 20 minutes.”

The hospital’s Safe Kids Program provided car thermometers for attendees so drivers can always be aware of when their vehicle is reaching a dangerous temperature. They say even cracking a window isn’t enough to keep your kids safe.

“That doesn’t create enough airflow in order to relieve some of that heat that’s trapped in there,” Wilson said. “The car, essentially, works like an oven mitt.”

Wilson advises leaving visual reminders so you don’t accidentally forget to check the back seat before you leave.

“Like leaving a pocketbook or cell phone in the backseat that allows you to every time you leave the vehicle check the back seat to make sure you’ve already removed the child from the back seat.”

And if you see another child or pet left in a car on a hot day, Wilson says the best thing you can do is to take action.

“The best thing to do is to call the authorities. If it’s in a parking lot situation, maybe you’re at a grocery store, you can contact management at the grocery store,” he said. “But the best thing to do is to take action. Call first responders, call 911. First responders are trained to deal with that situation.”

Memorial Health’s Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah offers helpful reminders to keep your children safe this summer:

  • Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
  • Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.
  • Always lock your car doors and trunk year-round so children can’t get into unattended vehicles.
  • Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a car is not a play area.
  • Even if the windows are partially open or the air conditioning is on, check to see if a parent or caregiver is around.
  • If you see a child alone in a locked car, get them out immediately and call 911. A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible.