To the Editor:
In 2011 at least 33 children died in heatstroke-related deaths when they were left in unattended vehicles. Heatstroke in vehicles is the leading cause of all non-crash related death for children 14 and younger. It represents 61 percent of total non-crash fatalities in this age group. And it is completely preventable.
In April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched its first-ever national campaign to get the message out about the harmful and potentially fatal effects of leaving children in hot vehicles.
The “Where’s baby? Look Before You Lock” message asks all parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to be mindful when leaving a vehicle.
Cars heat up quickly — even with a window rolled down two inches. If the outside temperature is in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes. Young children, those under 4 years old, are particularly at risk because their bodies overheat more easily, said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
“While parents are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing heatstroke in hot cars, everyone in the community has a role to play in keeping kids safe.” NHTSA offers Hyperthermia Prevention Safety Tips:
Never leave infants or young children unattended in a vehicle—even if you leave the windows partly open or the air conditioning on.
Make a habit of looking in the vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
Writing yourself a note and putting it where you will see it when you leave the vehicle;
Placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back when you leave the vehicle;
Keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where you’ll notice it when leaving the vehicle.
If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
We hope NHTSA’s simple tips will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache. As anyone who takes care of children can tell you, life can get hectic quickly, and mistakes are easily made. But don’t make a mistake with your child’s life. Remember to Look before you lock. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/safety/hyperthermia.
—National Highway Traffic Safety Administration