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NHTSA and Safe Kids Worldwide Urge Parents and Caregivers to Take Proper Precaution to Prevent Child Heatstroke in Hot Vehicles

July 30, 2013
NHTSA warns parents of heatstroke danger

July 31 is National Heatstroke Prevention Day

WASHINGTON – With record-setting heat blanketing significant portions of the country for much of this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids Worldwide are highlighting the dangers of child heatstroke in hot cars and urging parents and caregivers to think, “Where’s baby? Look before you lock,” the primary message in NHTSA’s heatstroke public education campaign.

Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show at least 24 children have died due to heatstroke already in 2013 – medically termed “hyperthermia.” Tomorrow, as part of National Heatstroke Prevention Day, NHTSA, Safe Kids and safety advocates across the country will raise awareness about the dangers of children in hot cars during a day-long social media conversation. Child heatstroke messaging, statistics and prevention tips will be posted on Facebook and Twitter – using the hash tag #heatstroke – every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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 without a parent’s knowledge. Other incidents can occur when a parent or caregiver who is not used to transporting a child as part of their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping infant in a rear-facing car seat in the back of the vehicle.

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 overheat easily, and infants and children under four years old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness.

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 that 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, or 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 that 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. A child in distress due to heat 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 heatstroke 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 heatstroke 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.

Media Contact

Jen Pollakusky
Media Manager
jpollakusky@safekids.org
202-662-4476