Auto Safety Agency Urges Caregivers to Think ‘Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock.’

Filed under: Community |

In response to a growing incidence of heat-related deaths, National  Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and SafeKids Worldwide announced a new partnership during July to prevent heatstroke. As part of this joint effort, the nation’s top auto safety agency and one of the country’s most vocal child safety organizations will host public events throughout July to highlight the dangers of heatstroke.

“This campaign is designed for families with young children, but it applies to everyone who cares about the safety of children,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We hope these simple tips will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache.”

“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,” said NHTSA Administrator Strickland. “We hope our campaign not only helps caregivers avoid accidentally harming a child but also clears up some of the misconceptions about the causes of child heatstroke in cars.”

Almost 50 children died this way last year.

  • Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS
    professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window
    slightly open.

Believe it or not, rountines and distrations have caused people to
mistakenly leave children behind in cars.

  • Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or whatever is
    to be carried from the car on the floor in front of a child in a backseat.
    This triggers adults to see children when they open the rear door and
    reach for their belongings.
  • Set your cell phone or Blackberry reminder to be sure you dorpped
    your child off at day care.
  • Set your computer program, such as Outlook, to ask, “Did you
    drop off at daycare today?”
  • Have a plan that if your child is late for daycare that you will be
    called within a few minutes. Be especially careful if you change your
    routine for dropping off little kids in day care.

Prevent trunk entrapment.

  • Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
  • Lock all doors and trun after everyone has exited the vehicle-especially
    at home. Keep keys out of children’s reach. Cars are not playgrounds
    or babbysitters.
  • Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child goes missing.

From 1998 to 2011, Texas led the nation in child vehicular hyperthermia deaths with 80 deaths. This is just not because of the 100° F degree days in Texas.  Because a child’s thermoregulatory system is not as efficient as an adult’s, a child’s body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult.

When outside temperatures are in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down 2 inches. Children’s bodies in particular overheat easily, and infants and children under 4 years old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness.

The Texas Crime Prevention Association is holding their summer conference in Richardson, Texas and the National Child Safety Council was on hand to share their 2012 educational campaign, Safe Kids Never Leave Your Child Alone In a Car.

On Thursday, the National Safety Council had a car equipped with a thermometer outside the car and one inside the car. The reading on the outside read 100° F when the car door was closed, with the windows rolled up. Within ten minutes the thermometer on the inside of the vehicle was reading 145° F.

Heatstroke can occur when a person’s temperature exceeds 104° F and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed. A core body temperature of 107° F is considered lethal as cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.

“Whether you are a parent or caregiver, or just a concerned bystander, you can help save lives,” says Kate Carr, President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “We are urging everyone to ACT: Avoid hyperthermia-related deaths by never leaving your child alone in a car and always locking doors and trunks; Create reminders and habits for you and your child’s caregivers to serve as a safety net to ensure you don’t forget your child; and Take action if you see a child unattended in a vehicle by immediately calling 911.”

As part of its “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.” campaign, NHTSA, Safe Kids and its safety partners are urging 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 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 accidentally 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; and,
  • Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.

In addition, NHTSA and Safe Kids urge community members who see a child alone in a hot vehicle to immediately call 911 or the local emergency number. If the child is in distress due to heat they should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.

To learn more about NHTSA’s “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.” campaign, visit www.SaferCar.gov/heatstroke.

Safe Kids supports NHTSA’s hyperthermia education campaign and the increased national coordination on the issue. In addition, with the support of the GM Foundation, Safe Kids and its network of 600 coalitions and chapters across the nation are helping to educate parents and caregivers through its hyperthermia awareness campaign, Never Leave Your Child Alone In a Car.

To learn more about Safe Kids’ “Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car” campaign, visit www.safekids.org/heatstroke.