Campaign Targets Child Heatstroke Deaths in Cars

By Matt Schmitz  on May 30, 2013

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As summer weather heats up in earnest across the nation, the death of an infant boy in Florida this month serves as a tragic reminder to never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Hoping to prevent such incidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide to spread the word.

According to CBS News in Miami, authorities have charged a West Miami-Dade woman, Catalina Bruno, with aggravated manslaughter following the death of her infant son, Bryan Osceola. Bruno allegedly left the baby in his car seat after arriving home; his temperature was 109 degrees when he was found, CBS reported.

NHTSA said that as of May 28, there had been four child heatstroke deaths so far in 2013; that's in addition to 384 between 2003 and 2012, according to a study by San Francisco State University. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicular deaths for young children, NHTSA said.

"It is especially dangerous because vehicles heat up quickly," NHTSA said in a statement. "Even with a window rolled down 2 inches, if the outside temperature is in the low-80s, the temperature inside the vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes."

With their safety campaign, NHTSA and Safe Kids Worldwide urge parents and caregivers to remind themselves to check each time they get out of the car with the mantra, "Where’s baby? Look before you lock." One tip the campaign offers is for drivers to habitually remind themselves to do a quick scan, front and back, of their vehicle by leaving a reminder such as placing their purse or briefcase in the back seat, writing a note-to-self or positioning a stuffed animal in the rearview mirror.

Most importantly, never leave a child unattended in a car, even if the windows are open or the air conditioning is on. Other tips include:

  • Asking your child-care provider to call if the child does not show up as expected.
  • Teaching children that a vehicle is not a play area and storing keys out of their reach.
  • Calling 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle. 
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