Child heatstroke prevention depends on adults

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An article posted by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on his Blog: Fast Lane

Since early April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been working hard to protect our nation's most vulnerable passengers--young children--from the dangers of heatstroke.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14, with at least 33 fatalities reported in 2011 alone. NHTSA's first-ever national campaign to prevent child heatstroke in cars seeks to save lives and spare America's families the heartache of a tragic loss.

As part of this nationwide effort, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland is in Raleigh, North Carolina today bringing this important safety campaign to the Wake Tech Public Safety Education campus, an innovative facility that trains fire and rescue personnel, EMS technicians, and others.

Safety is DOT's highest priority, and the safety of children is a special area of concern for this agency and this administration. So last year NHTSA intensified its involvement with a first-of-its-kind heatstroke roundtable and a series of town hall discussions in the states worst hit by heatstroke fatalities.

This year NHTSA is delivering on its promise to bring safety advocates, industry experts, and health and law enforcement professionals together for its public education campaign: "Where's baby? Look Before You Lock."

So far this summer, NHTSA has visited Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana to raise awareness of the threat heatstroke presents.


In addition to the deaths that get reported, serious injuries from heatstroke strike an unknown number of children each year, including permanent blindness, hearing loss, and brain injury. Children's bodies don't regulate heat the same way adults do; they heat up 4-5 times faster. When it is just 80 degrees outside, the inside temperature of a vehicle can reach dangerous levels in just minutes--even with the windows rolled down. So children are particularly susceptible to heatstroke in hot cars.

As Administrator Strickland will tell the audience at Wake Tech, "The safety community has the data, ideas, expertise, and determination to make a difference on this issue and prevent any more of these horrific deaths from ever occurring again.  But we need your help to make it happen."

And that means being mindful when you park your car. Never leave an infant or a young child unattended in a vehicle—even if the windows are partly open or the air conditioning is on. Always check the backseat before walking away from a parked vehicle. And if you see a child alone in a car, call the police immediately.

Parents Central

NHTSA features these tips and more on its Parents Central website. And I urge you not only to visit this site but to--please--share it with others, particularly parents, grandparents, and caregivers.

I thank NHTSA and its terrific partners like SafeKids Worldwide for this important initiative. But they can only do so much; the rest depends on you.

So please, when you're parking your vehicle, always look before you lock.