Highway safety office warns parents, caretakers about kids in hot cars

ATLANTA – This summer’s temperatures have been extremely warm, creating the perfect conditions for a potentially devastating outcome. The dangers for children being seriously injured or even dying from being left alone inside a hot car rise substantially with summer’s heat. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for National Heatstroke Prevention Day in an effort to reduce these tragic deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of heatstroke in young children.

More than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 29 percent are from a child getting into a hot car on their own, according to NHTSA.

“To prevent these needless tragedies, we want to urge all parents and caregivers to be vigilant about checking for their children when they enter and exit their vehicle,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. “At least 17 children have died nationwide this year from vehicular heatstroke. That’s far too many lives lost to a 100 percent preventable tragedy. We have to make it a priority to keep this from happening again.”

NHTSA encourages all parents and caregivers to do just three things to avoid these tragedies in the future:

1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended for any reason. 2. Make it a habit to look in the backseat every time you exit the car. 3. Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach of any child. And, if you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately.

According to NHTSA, heatstroke is the No. 1 cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and under. One child dies from heatstroke almost every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle.

Warning signs of heatstroke include: red, hot and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea, confusion or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, cool the child rapidly (not an ice bath but by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose). Call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

“Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees,” Blackwood said. “In Georgia, we experience temperatures much higher than that in the summer, and a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.”

GOHS wants to remind everyone of a few key safety tips to prevent deadly accidents and to prevent vehicular heatstroke:

• Never leave an infant or child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partly open, or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on; • Don’t let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area; • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle -front and back -before locking the door and walking away; • Take steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle: – Write yourself a note and place it where you’ll see it when you leave the vehicle. – Place your purse, briefcase, or something else you’re sure to need in the back seat so you’ll be sure to see a child left in the vehicle. – Keep an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. Once the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she leaves the vehicle; • Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children’s reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk. • Ask your childcare center to call you if your child doesn’t arrive on time for childcare.

For more information on vehicle-related heatstroke, visit www.safercar.gov/heatstroke or www.safekids.org.

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