As Temperatures Rise, the NHTSA Urges Parents and Caregivers to “Look Before You Lock”
Summer means temperatures are rising across the country. As such, the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is, once again, issuing a warning to parents and caregivers of young children that leaving a child unattended in a parked car, for even a short length of time, can cause heatstroke and prove fatal.
According to a report issued by the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences, since 1998, there have been 606 deaths in the United States as a result of adults leaving children in hot cars. Already this year, news reports indicate at least two child hot car deaths, including the recent death of a 16 month old girl in Florida. There are also several catastrophic injuries, where the child survives but suffers serious and sometimes tragically permanent afflictions, including brain damage, blindness, loss of hearing, and more.
Children are more prone to heatstroke than adults. When temperatures outside are in the low 80's, temperatures inside a car can reach fatal levels in a mere 10 minutes, even with the window rolled down an inch or two. Children's bodies are prone to overheat easily and children under the age of four are most at risk of death in hot cars. When a child's body temperature reaches 107 degrees, they will likely not survive.
It is hard to imagine parents leaving behind their beloved children in such a dangerous place, as most parents are routinely responsible and are protective of their own. However, hot car deaths often occur when a parent or caregiver who is not usually transporting a child as part of their routine forgets the child is in the vehicle, most often when the child falls asleep, and leaves the child in the backseat. It can also occur when children climb unattended into the vehicle and play without the parent around.
The NHTSA is urging parents and caregivers to follow the steps below to prevent child heatstroke deaths this spring and summer:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if the vehicle is running and the air conditioning or windows are partially open;
- Ask your childcare provider to call in the event your child does not show up for care as expected;
- Make it a habit to look in the vehicle, front and back, before locking the car and walking away;
- Do something to serve as a reminder the child is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse, work bag, or even shoes in the back seat to ensure no child is left in the car seat;
- Teach children not to play in cars and do not leave keys within reach;
- If you see a child unattended in a car, call 911;
- Any child in distress should be removed from the car right away and rapidly cooled.
Nothing is more tragic than a young child killed due to an accidental oversight. We hope all parents and caregivers follow the NHTSA's urging to prevent heatstroke in young children.
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