A partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids Worldwide aims to raise awareness of child deaths from heatstroke in vehicles. The program will include a number of public events in various cities throughout the country during the month of July. It builds on a national awareness program with the theme of, “Where’s Baby? Look before you lock,” launched this year by the NHTSA.
At least 532 children in the U.S. alone have died as a result of vehicular heatstroke since 1998, most of them younger than the age of 3. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children age 13 and younger.
There also are an unknown number of children injured each year due to heatstroke – injuries varying from permanent brain damage to blindness and even loss of hearing. Children of all ages can overheat easily, but infants and children younger than age 4 are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses.
“As we approach what is the hottest month of the year for most of the country, we’re working to get the message out to families with young children to take basic precautions to ensure a heatstroke tragedy never happens to them,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a news release. “Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense against heatstroke deaths and injuries, but everyone in the community has a role to play in keeping our children safe.”
Representatives from NHTSA and Safe Kids will be touring through Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, Missouri, and Georgia to help educate parents and caregivers on taking precautions to prevent heatstroke incidents from happening. The program also will involve State Department of Transportation officials and local community health professionals, who will demonstrate just how fast it takes for a vehicle to reach deadly temperatures when the outside temperature is at 80 °F. It takes only around 10 minutes, despite a window being partially rolled down.
Even if the awareness campaign is not visiting your city, there are materials available on the NHTSA “Where’s baby? Look before you lock” website that you can use to create an event in your town. These include sample press releases, posters, logos, website banners and audio public service announcements.
In particular, the “Where’s baby? Look before you lock” campaign reminds parents and caregivers never to leave a baby alone in a hot car. In 2011, 33 babies died as a result of being left in a hot car. Tragically, some parents and caregivers simply overlooked a quiet or sleeping baby in the car and inadvertently left the baby there.
Tips for keeping children safe around automobiles in the summer months include:
- Never leave a child unsupervised in a vehicle – even if windows are partially open and the air conditioning is on.
- Before locking the door and leaving the vehicle behind, make a habit of checking around the vehicle.
- Find ways to remind yourself that you have a child in the car, whether it is by placing a note on within the driver’s view or placing a purse/briefcase in the backseat with the child.
- Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and place the car keys out of a child’s reach.
Safe Kids and NHTSA urge members of the community who see a child alone in a hot vehicle never to hesitate to dial 911 or the local emergency number. It only takes a matter of minutes before the damage is done. Once the child is removed from the hot car, rapidly cool the child with water.