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Some people might think this message shouldn't have to be communicated, but if it prevents one accident, one needless fatality, then it's worthwhile.
With summer's heat and the inherent risk it brings, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants you to take special precautions about leaving children or anyone alone in a parked car...even for a few minutes.
NHTSA has joined Safe Kids, North Carolina Department of Transportation officials and health professionals nationwide to discuss ways to prevent child deaths and injuries in hot cars and urge parents and caregivers to think "Where's baby? Look before you lock."
When outside temperatures are in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. Children's bodies in particular overheat easily, and infants and children under four years old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness.
Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show 33 children died last year due to heatstroke – medically termed "hyperthermia" – while there were at least 49 deaths in 2010. An unknown number of children are also injured each year due to heatstroke in hot cars, suffering ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others. Often heatstroke deaths and injuries occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play unbeknownst to the parent. Other incidents can occur when a parent or caregiver who is not used to transporting a child as part of their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping child in the back of the vehicle.
In addition to North Carolina, through the partnership, NHTSA, Safe Kids, and its safety partners will also visit Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri to 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 a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a cell phone, 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 a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach.
If you're going to the store "just to pick up a few things" remember that you cannot leave children unattended in a vehicle; not under any circumstances.