As the mercury rises this May, so does the risk of children dying of heatstroke in vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related vehicle fatalities of children younger than 14.
The agency reports that 33 children died of hyperthermia in overheated cars last year and 49 in 2010. Injuries are serious, too; NHTSA reports that an unknown number of kids are injured each year in hot cars, resulting in permanent brain injury, blindness and deafness. Many of these incidents occur when a child is playing in a vehicle unbeknownst to the caregiver.
NHTSA's new campaign, "Where's baby? Look before you lock," is aimed at making it clear to parents that hot cars are deadly.
"Everything we know about this terrible danger to children indicates heatstroke in hot cars can happen to any caregiver from any walk of life — and the majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement.
NHSTA offers the following tips to prevent heatstroke deaths and injuries from happening to your family:
- 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 purse or briefcase in the backseat 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 child-safety seat.
- Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach.