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High temps and hot cars: Take precautions to keep kids safe

July 8, 2012

As high temperatures continue in parts of the country, transportation safety experts remind parents and caregivers not to leave children unattended in vehicles.

When outside temperatures reach the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only ten minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14, with at least 33 fatalities reported in 2011 alone.

"These non-crash, vehicle-related deaths of children are entirely preventable when we all follow the recommended precautions," said UMTRI research professor Jean Shope, who is also co-leader of training and education programs at the U-M Injury Center.

Caregivers Urged to 'Look Before You Lock'
NHTSA and Safe Kids Worldwide recently announced a new partnership focused on preventing child deaths from heatstroke in the United States. As part of this joint effort, the groups will host public events throughout July to highlight the dangers of heatstroke and urge 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, 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.

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 with water.

"As we approach what is the hottest month of the year for most of the country, we're working to get the message out to families with young children to take basic precautions to ensure a heatstroke tragedy never happens to them," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Read the NHTSA press release.