“Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock”
Now that spring is here and the temperatures across the nation are rising, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is again warning parents and caregivers of young children that leaving children unattended in a parked car, even for short periods, can cause heatstrokes that can often be fatal.
Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show that since 1998, there have been 637 deaths in the United States resulting from adults leaving a young child in a vehicle. In 2014, 30 lives were lost and one death has already occurred this year. There are also far too many “close calls” that fortunately do not result in tragic deaths, but can cause serious injury, including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others.
It doesn’t take much to lose a child to heatstroke. When outside temperatures are in the low 80’s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. Children’s bodies in particular overheat easily, and infants and children under four years old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness. When a child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, they die.
Heatstroke death and injuries often occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play without a parent or caregiver’s knowledge. Other incidents can occur when a parent or caregiver who is not used to transporting a child as part of their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping child in the back seat of the vehicle.
Heatstroke tragedies are 100 percent preventable. NHTSA urges parents and caregivers to take the following precautions to prevent heatstroke incidents from occurring:
- 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 doesn’t show up for care as expected;
- Do things that serve as a reminder that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle, or writing a note or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver’s view to indicate a child is in the car seat; and
- Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
- In addition, NHTSA urges community members who see a child alone in a hot vehicle to immediately call 911 or the local emergency number.
- A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.
Three years ago, NHTSA launched a public education campaign, “Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock,” in the hope that the simple tips from this campaign will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache. This year’s campaign will be supported by online and radio ads starting Monday May 11 and will run for 18 weeks to September 13. To learn more about NHTSA’s “Where’s Baby? Look before you Lock.” campaign, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/nhtsa-child-heatstroke-advisory-2015