There are a lot of great things about summer and kids; baseball, swimming, fireflies, and ice cream come to my mind, and the list certainly doesn't end there. But summer's heat also brings potential danger to our nation's children.
One of those dangers is hyperthermia, or heat stroke, from being left unattended in a parked vehicle.
DOT data indicates that hyperthermia kills at least 27 children every year. That makes it the #1 non-crash vehicle-related cause of death for of our nation's kids.
According to a San Francisco State University fact sheet, 9 children have already died in 2010, and summer hasn't even heated up yet.
On a day when the temperature outside is 86 degrees, the temperature inside a car can quickly reach 135 or even 150 degrees! And research indicates that leaving the windows open a crack does little to reduce this oven effect.
Now, you may be wondering, "Who would leave a child unattended in a hot car?" Or "Who would let a child play unattended in a hot car?"
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests those may be the wrong questions. Because these are not deliberate decisions. For example:
- A stressed parent forgets to drop a quietly sleeping baby at daycare and parks at his or her office building.
- A curious kid finds a way to crawl into a car is overcome by hyperthermia before thinking to get out.
- A caregiver stops at a grocery store or to run a quick errand and lingers one or two fatal minutes.
What we recognize is that those people are very much like ourselves. And, to get a sense of what I'm talking about, I urge you to read the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning feature article, "Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Back Seat of a Car is a Horrifying Mistake," by The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten.
Look, the fact is these are accidents. But they are deadly and they are entirely preventable.
There are two very simple steps to prevent these tragedies:
- Don't leave a child unattended in a vehicle--whether the windows are open or closed, whether the air conditioner is running or not. Do not. Ever.
- Teach your children that a car is not a place to play.
But NHTSA has a more extensive list of Safety Tips to Prevent Hyperthermia, and because this is so gravely important, I'm including them below. Please take them to heart, and once you've done that, please share them.
Together, we can keep America's children safe.
NHTSA: Safety Tips to Prevent Hyperthermia
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
- Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
- Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or with the engine running and the air conditioning on.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
- If you are bringing your child to daycare, and normally it's your spouse or partner who brings them, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure everything went according to plan.
- Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare. Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
- Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
- If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Warning signs may include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle;
Placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or
Keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle.
For further safety information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/KeepingKidsSafe.