Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle can lead to heatstroke and can kill in minutes. Nineteen children have died in hot cars so far this year.
The latest tragedy is a 3-year-old boy in Southern California who died just yesterday after he wandered outside and got into the car while his family napped. He became trapped in the car and died due to heatstroke.
July 31 is National Heatstroke Prevention Day and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Safe Kids Worldwide and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) are calling on the public to help prevent future tragedies by sharing important safety tips via Twitter and Facebook.
According to the NHTSA, 606 children died in the United States from 1998-2013 due to heatstroke from being in hot cars. It is the leading cause of non-crash related fatalities from children 14 and younger. All of these children’s deaths were preventable.
How did these children die in hot cars? Data shows:
- 52% were forgotten in the vehicle by their caregiver
- 29% gained access by themselves and became trapped
- 18% were left intentionally
- 1% were unknown cases
Last year alone, 44 children lost their lives after being left in unattended motor vehicles, and an unknown number of others sustained moderate to severe injuries.
Throughout the day today, NHTSA and its safety partners will highlight the dangers of leaving children alone in cars. @NHTSAgov will be using the hash tags #checkforbaby and #heatstrokekills on all its social media posts, and encourages the public to do the same.
In honor of National Heatstroke Prevention Day, the agency will be sharing safety tips from NHTSA’s “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” public education campaign, which provides important information on how to better protect children.
Safety tips include:
- 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 phone, 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.
- Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
- Community members who see a child alone in a vehicle should 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.
“Our commitment to preventing heatstroke extends all the way up to the Secretary’s Office here at DOT and throughout the federal government,” said David Friedman, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator. “Secretary Foxx and I recently visited the Rosemount Early Childhood Development Center in Northwest Washington to warn of the danger of heatstroke. We were joined by Mark Greenberg, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, who spoke about HHS efforts to spread the word and combat heatstroke.”
“But the most powerful message sent at our heatstroke event came from Reginald McKinnon, who lost his 2-year old daughter when he accidentally left her in his vehicle four years ago. His story is a heart-wrenching reminder that this tragedy can happen to anyone. Reggie has shown great courage by choosing to dedicate his time to helping parents avoid a similar tragedy.”
Find out more about preventing heatstroke at safekids.org.