To a child, the warm weather that summer brings means a host of great things –trips to the beach, longer days, and ice cream cones. But it can also mean potential dangers, such as being left in an overheated car.
That’s why yesterday, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland traveled to San Antonio, Texas, where he joined Texas Department of Transportation officials, safety advocates, health professionals, and families who have suffered heatstroke tragedies to discuss ways to prevent child deaths and injuries in hot cars.
The meeting was part of NHTSA’s first-ever national campaign to spread the word about the harmful and potentially lethal effects of leaving children in hot vehicles. NHTSA is alerting parents and caregivers across the country with the simple message: “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.”
It was important to discuss this important issue in Texas, since it consistently ranks among the states hardest hit by heatstroke fatalities. Statewide, at least 80 children have lost their lives to vehicular heatstroke since 1998, with most deaths occurring among children ages 3 and younger.
Nationwide, at least 33 children died during 2011 in heatstroke-related deaths when they were left unattended in vehicles. These accidents could happen to anyone, but they are completely preventable.
As Administrator Strickland said, “Everything we know about this terrible danger to children indicates heatstroke in hot cars can happen to any caregiver from any walk of life – and the majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents.”
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle –even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle –front and back– before locking the door and walking away.
- Ask the childcare provider to call if the child does not show up for care as expected.
- Do things that serve as a reminder that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver's view to indicate a child is in the car seat.
- Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of their reach.
- If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, immediately call 911 or the local emergency number. Remove the child from the vehicle as quickly as possible and cool them rapidly.
Any tragedy from heatstroke is one too many. Please share these tips with your friends and loved ones – together we can save lives.