Keep Your Kids Out of Hot Cars This Summer
The vehicle safety advocacy organization KidsandCars.org has for a long time waged public safety campaigns to help keep kids safe around cars, even when they aren’t moving. They work to highlight some of the more “under the radar” risks like trunk entrapment, power windows, roll-overs, and—most timely right now—the risk of heat stroke.
According to the safety organization, nearly 40 children die every single year because of heat-related causes after being trapped inside a motor vehicle. Of course, this risk is greatly increased during the summer months, when even the best parents or caregivers might accidently overlook the sleeping child in the car seat.
This spring, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its own safety campaign to prevent child heatstroke. It is the first ever national campaign focused on this important safety issue and encourages parents and caregivers to think “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.” NHTSA data shows that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14. In addition to the deaths, heatstroke can cause serious ailments such as permanent brain injury, blindness and loss of hearing, among other health issues.
Research has shown that heatstroke deaths are usually caused by a couple strings of events. One situation involves a child playing in a vehicle without the caregiver’s knowledge. Heatstroke incidents are also frequently connected to a change in routine for the caregiver, particularly when they are not normally in charge of transporting the child.
The NHTSA campaign urges parents and caregivers to take the following types of precautions to prevent these tragic accidents 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 does not show up for care as expected
• Do things that serve as a reminder a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidently left in the vehicle, writing a note 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 a child’s reach
• Community members can also play a vital role in protecting young children by calling 911 or another local emergency number if they see a child alone in a hot vehicle.