It’s something we hear about every year in Florida as the temperatures heat up – children left unattended in a locked vehicle by a caretaker who simply forgot. Dying of heatstroke is a preventable tragedy that only takes minutes to occur.
Last year alone, 44 children in the U.S. died this horrible death, according to San Francisco State University researchers. Countless others were hurt or severely injured. Nationwide, the average number of child deaths annually is about 38. Consumer Affairs reports there have been two fatalities already so far this year.
It’s such a problem that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just launched its “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” campaign to alert everyone who transports children how easily they can be left behind in a car.
No one thinks it can happen to them so part of the campaign is education and outreach. When outside temperatures are as low as the 60s, the car can heat to fatal levels, about 107 degrees, in about ten minutes and that is even with a window cracked a couple of inches. Young children are particularly susceptible because their bodies overheat easily, about five times faster than an adult.
One cannot imagine the type of parent or caregiver who would leave their child locked in a car and absentmindedly walk away. But people from all walks of lives, all ages and relationships to the child have been guilty of this. They say they were distracted, they simply forgot, they had a lot on their mind, it was outside of their normal pattern- all sorts of excuses are heard from otherwise responsible persons.
Adults may not even be involved when children get into cars. Heatstroke can also occur when a child gets into a vehicle or some sort of container to play and is locked in accidentally.
The organization, Safe Kids Worldwide, reports the convenience of leaving a child who is asleep in a car seat has been a chosen option for about 14 percent of parents and a new study says approximately 3.3 million children have been left in a parked vehicle by a caregiver. Dads are particularly to blame with about 23 percent admitting they have left a child alone in a parked car compared to eight percent of women.
Parents need to be aware of the statistics, say both NHTSA and Safe Kids. Never leave a child in an unattended vehicle in the heat, even if the air conditioner is running.
Bring a stuffed toy and place it in the front of the car when a child is in the back. Place your purse or briefcase in the back when a child is in the rear seat of a vehicle.
Have a childcare attendant call someone in charge if a child does not show up for daycare. Make a habit of looking in the front and the back before locking and walking away from a vehicle.
Keep kids away from parked and/or abandoned vehicles and teach them they are not safe places to play. The public is becoming increasingly vigilant about children left in abandoned vehicles. If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-1-1 immediately and take the steps to remove the child from the car immediately and cool him down.