July 31 is National Heat Stroke Prevention Day. On this day, AskPatty.com joins with KidsandCars.org, safekids.org, NHTSA.gov, and many other child-safety advocacy groups to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving kids in hot cars.
Of course, you already know that it’s dangerous to leave kids alone in cars, right?
And yet, it still happens: Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children under the age of 14. The statistics are horrifying: 44 children died in 2013 because they were left unattended in a hot vehicle, reports nhtsa.gov. In the past 20 years more than 670 U.S. children have died in hot cars, according to KidsAndCars.org, the leading national nonprofit group dedicated solely to preventing injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles.
Another baby died in a hot car just yesterday, bringing the total this year to 19 tragic deaths, when a three-year-old somehow locked himself into a car in Sylmar. As a parent, I simply cannot imagine anything more painful for a family than for a beloved baby to die because somebody left their child in a hot car.
Children die as a result of being left unattended in a vehicle in one of three ways:
- 1) in more than half the cases (52%), they are “forgotten” by a distracted caregiver when they arrive at their destination;
- 2) in about 30% of cases, they climb into an unlocked car or trunk to play and are overcome by heat and can’t climb out; and
- 3) in about 17% of cases, they are intentionally left alone by a driver who might have left the child to sleep or gone to run an errand.
Safe Kids is asking everyone to help protect kids from this preventable tragedy by remembering to ACT.
- A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
- C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
- T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
"It can happen to anybody, even the most loving and attentive parents," notes Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org. The number of child heat stroke deaths in vehicles continues to average approximately 37 per year; or about one every 10 days.
- • Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to check to make sure no child - or pet - has been left behind.
- • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. Right before the child is placed in the seat, move the stuffed animal to the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that your child is in the back seat.
- • Put something you'll need on the floorboard in the back seat in front of your child's car seat (cell phone, handbag, employee ID, briefcase, etc.). This ensures you open the back door of your vehicle to retrieve your belongings.
- • Make arrangements with your daycare provider or babysitter to call you within 10 minutes if your child does not arrive as expected.
- • Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute. Instead, use drive-thru services when available.
- • Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children. When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.
What should you do if you should see a child alone in a hot vehicle? Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, and stay with the child until emergency help arrives. If the child is in distress due to heat, get her out as quickly as possible--even if you have to break the window. Cool the child rapidly (not in an ice bath, but by spraying her with cool water or with a garden hose).
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