Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, Safe Kids North Carolina and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are reminding everyone to “Look Before You Lock” to prevent heat stroke deaths that occur as the result of children being left or trapped in unattended vehicles.
On average, nearly 40 children across the country die from heat exposure each year. Since 1999, at least 19 children in North Carolina have died, when they entered a vehicle unnoticed, when a caregiver accidentally forgot them in a car, or when they were intentionally left in a vehicle while their caregiver performed another task or errand.
“The unfortunate thing is that these tragedies are completely avoidable,” said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, state chair of Safe Kids North Carolina. “By taking simple steps, we can help one another prevent the tragedy of child heat stroke.”
The danger of vehicular hyperthermia in children in North Carolina spreads from March through November due to the subtropical climate. Hyperthermia can occur even on days with mild 70-degree temperatures. The temperature in a closed vehicle can rise about 20 degrees in 10 minutes and nearly 30 degrees in 20 minutes. Cracking a window has little effect.
Here’s what parents and caregivers can do to prevent tragedies:
- Lock Vehicles and Trunks. Thirty percent of recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle. These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicles to assure that kids don’t enter and become trapped. Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.
- Create Reminders. Many child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child. To help prevent these tragedies parents can:
– Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings.
– Set the alarm on your cell phone/smartphone as a reminder to drop your child off at day care. Check out the Baby Reminder application at bit.ly/zxcdty which automatically monitors and determines when you are driving and when you are not.
– Set your computer calendar program to ask, “Did you drop baby off at daycare today?” Establish a plan with your daycare that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time that you will be called within a few minutes.
– Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for daycare.
- Get Involved. Free educational materials are available at www.Safekids.org or by searching online for “Never Leave your Child Alone.” Post them at your child care center, place of business, church — let’s help each other prevent further tragedies!
And if you see an unattended child in a vehicle:
- Take Immediate Action and Dial 911. The body temperature of children rises 3 - 5 times faster than adults, and as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke. Law enforcement and EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble and can take action to remove the child.
Safe Kids North Carolina reaches out to parents, caregivers and children to prevent childhood injuries through 38 Safe Kids Coalitions working in 66 counties. For more information, visit www.ncsafekids.org or http://www.safercar.gov.