It seems impossible that any parent would leave, let alone lock their child in a hot car. Really, what kind of parent could forget their kid in a car? But, it happens more often than you would think, and all it takes is a little too much distraction. Do you know any parents who aren’t distracted?
According to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14. Last year, there were at least 33 fatalities and 49 heatstroke related child deaths in 2010. While the exact number of heatstroke victims is unknown, since 1998, it is estimated that more than 520 children have died of heatstroke, an average of one child nearly every 10 days. Each and every one of them could have been prevented.
As temperatures begin to climb, parents should be more aware of heatstroke than ever. NHTSA has launched a national campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in cars, “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.”
While it may be tempting to point fingers at negligent parents and caregivers, NHTSA and KidsandCars.org say that it could happen to anyone. Children can suffer from heatstroke in as little as 57 degrees. It takes only 10 minutes for a car to heat up to dangerous levels on an 80 degree day. Heatstroke is especially dangerous to children because children absorb more heat than adults. According to KidsandCars.org, more than half of the heatstroke deaths, the parent or caregiver accidentally left the child in the car, and 30% of time, a child got into to the car without the parent’s knowledge.
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
- No sweating
- Strong, rapid pulse or slow, weak pulse
- Throbbing headache
To prevent child heatstroke death, NHTSA urges parents and caregivers to:
- 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
- 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 accidently left in the vehicle
- Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach
- If you 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.