At DOT, safety is our number one priority. We care about everyone, but we have a special responsibility to protect our most vulnerable passengers –America’s kids– and do everything possible to keep them safe.
Last Friday, I was pleased to join U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to focus on a danger that is 100 percent preventable: the deadly combination of summer heat and children left alone inside of hot cars.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Since 1998, at least 550 children nationwide have lost their lives to vehicular heatstroke, and most of those children were age three or younger. Already this summer, there have been at least 23 deaths and an unknown number of serious injuries to children left unattended in hot vehicles.
While parents and caregivers are the first line of defense, everyone has a role to play in preventing these needless tragedies. That’s why it's so important that we're joining forces with HHS to mobilize the network of Head Start and child care providers nationwide to prevent further tragedies.
One step parents and early child care and education providers can take right now is to use the HHS cooperative pledge. This simple action helps families and providers work together to inform each other immediately if a child is expected to arrive at an early care or education center and does not.
Sometimes, notifying adults right away when a child doesn't arrive where he or she is expected can be all that it takes to locate a child in a locked car in time to prevent a tragedy.
Friday’s announcement builds on an ongoing nationwide heatstroke campaign launched by NHTSA earlier this year reminding parents and caregivers to think: “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.”
We know that children’s bodies don’t regulate heat the same way adults do; they heat up 4-5 times faster. And when outside temperatures are in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in minutes, even with a window rolled down.
The majority of heatstroke deaths are preventable tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents and caregivers. So during this long, hot summer, we are teaching families with young children the basic steps they can take to avoid a heatstroke tragedy.
Any tragedy from heatstroke is one too many. By working with our valued partners at HHS, safety advocates, industry experts, and health and law enforcement professionals, we can save lives.