Child in a car (Photo : General Motors)
Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported on Tuesday to have joined local families who have suffered heatstroke tragedies
Texas Department of Transportation officials, Safe Kids, health professionals, and concerned citizens discussed measures to prevent child deaths and injuries in hot cars. As part of a nationwide campaign launched earlier this year, NHTSA is joining safety advocates at events around the country to urge parents and caregivers to think "Where's baby? Look before you lock."
Like Us on Facebook
“This campaign is designed for parents and families with young children, but it applies to everyone in communities nationwide who care about the safety of children," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters. "We hope that the simple tips from this campaign will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache."
Texas consistently ranked among the states with heatstroke fatalities. Today's warning message comes on the heels of a tragedy in the Sugarland area of Houston last month, when a 7-month- old infant died after being left unattended in a hot car. Statewide, at least 80 children have lost their lives to vehicular heatstroke since 1998, with most deaths occurring among children ages 3 and younger.
"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."
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 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.
Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences showed 33 children died last year due to heatstroke, or “hypothermia”, and there were at least 49 deaths in 2010. An unknown number of children are also injured each year due to heatstroke in hot cars, suffering ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others.
Often, heatstroke deaths and injuries occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play while unknown to the parent. Other incidents can occur when a caregiver transporting a child as part of a change in their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping infant in a rear-facing car seat in the back of the vehicle.
As part of its "Where's baby? Look before you lock." campaign, NHTSA and its safety partners are urging parents and caregivers to take precautions to prevent heatstroke incidents from occurring, including not leaving a child unattended, making a habit of looking in the vehicle, and teaching the children that vehicle is not a play area.
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.
“There's no greater tragedy than a concerned caregiver or loving parent inadvertently harming their own child," stated Johnny Humphreys, Chairman of the NGO, “Safe Kids Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car Texas Task Force.
"While parents and caregivers must always be the first line of defense, we can all help prevent these deaths by being aware of the risks and taking immediate action if we see a child in danger."