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Dangers of leaving children in hot cars

National Heat Awareness Day is an effort to bring attention to this issue

Published: May 23, 2014 08:00 AM

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The summer hasn't officially started yet, but so far this year five children in four states have died from heatstroke after being left alone in a hot car. Their ages ranged from 9 months to 5 years. Last year was one of the worst in history with the deaths of 44 children.   

Since 1998, 611 children have died from hyperthermia after being left in a hot car. More than half of the deaths were children under the age of 2.

These hot-car tragedies often occur when there is a change in a driver's routine, stress, or a sleeping baby in the back and a parent or caregiver forgets that a child is in the car. Some knowingly leave children "just for a minute," not realizing how quickly the temperature in a car can rise to dangerous levels. Even on a 70-degree day, the inside temperature of a car can exceed 120 degrees even with windows partially open.

In an effort to bring awareness to the issue, Kids and Cars, a national nonprofit child safety organization, and Ray Ray's Pledge are promoting National Heat Awareness day on May 23 through 24 hours of facts and tips on social media using the hashtags #heatstroke, #RayRaysPledge, and #LookBeforeYouLock.

The Look Before You Lock campaign is one way to help people remember their children in the back seat. Here are more tips to help avert a heartbreaking catastrophe and make sure no child is left behind in a vehicle.

  • Simple rule: Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute. In addition to being dangerous, it is against the law in many states.
  • Check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading. If you lock the door with a key, rather than with a remote, it would force that one last look in the car before leaving it.
  • Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children.
  • To serve as a reminder, keep a stuffed animal on the front passenger seat when carrying a child in the backseat.
  • Place something in the backseat that you would need, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone.
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, especially if they seem hot, call 911 immediately to help get them out.

For additional information on keeping your children safe in and around motor vehicles, visit the Kids and Cars website and our special section on kids and car safety. Also read: "Hot Cars: A Deadly Danger."

Liza Barth

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