July 21, 2011

Safe Kids Reminds Caregivers of the Dangers to Children Alone in Cars

21 Deaths This Year and Summer Heat Waves Call For Extra Care with Children

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At the mid-point of summer, with hot temperatures throughout the country and more than 20 child deaths so far from hyperthermia, Safe Kids USA reminds caregivers to never leave children alone in vehicles.

According to a national survey done by the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) 45 percent of parents think it is "very unlikely" a child in their neighborhood could "die from the heat after being left alone in the car," yet on average this occurs 38 times a year. With the support of the GM Foundation, Safe Kids USA and its network of 600 coalitions and chapters across the nation are helping to educate parents and caregivers by providing prevention information. Parents need to understand how quickly a car can heat up, how susceptible children are to heat, and what they need to do to help prevent these tragic deaths.

Since March, 21 children have tragically died from being trapped in a sweltering car or truck - with nearly one-fourth of the deaths occurring in Texas alone. It can happen at temperatures as low as the mid-50s. But with heat waves across the country, these horrific incidents are happening far too often. The majority of these devastating stories have taken place in the southern states, which is why Safe Kids USA has held several press conferences in Florida and Texas to bring awareness to the issue. In addition, Safe Kids coalitions across the U.S. are working diligently, hosting more than 150 "Never Leave Your Child Alone" events; running advertising campaigns; distributing brochures, tip sheets, posters and flyers; and engaging community leaders to alert them to the danger.

"As these tragedies continue to occur, Safe Kids has redoubled its efforts to get the message out that the inside of a vehicle is an extremely dangerous place for a child to be alone," said Lorrie Walker, Child Passenger Safety Training Manager of Safe Kids Worldwide. "The inside of a car acts like a greenhouse, a place no child should be alone. Because children's bodies heat up by as much as five times faster than adults, this makes them much more susceptible to heat stroke."

Although most would assume this would never happen to them, there is no common description of the caregiver that has experienced this tragedy. It has happened to the rich and poor, educated and less educated, women and men, city dwellers and suburbanites, and in every state but Wyoming.

"Reaching parents and caregivers with these safety messages will no doubt help keep kids safe. These heartbreaking incidents can happen to anyone and public education is vital to combating these preventable occurrences," said Walker.

"Good communication between parents and teachers can be a key to child safety and prevention of the devastating effects of hyperthermia," said Kristie Reeves, a mother who lost her child to hyperthermia this year. "One phone call with a child care center or school can save a child's life."

Record temperatures mean that cars heat up very quickly. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes. In the same survey done by ACTS, 9 of 10 parents report that they never leave their child alone in a car but for the one parent that does, things can end tragically. The bottom line is that there are ways to prevent these deaths. Actively look in cars and trucks in parking lots and call 911 immediately if you see a child unattended in a vehicle.

Here's what parents and caregivers need to know and why.

  • Lock cars and trucks. Thirty percent of the 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 vehicle doors and putting keys out of reach to help assure that kids don't enter the vehicles and become trapped.
  • 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 you to drop your child off at day care.
    • Set your computer calendar program to ask, "Did you drop off at child care today?" Establish a plan with your child care provider 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 child care.

Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble. The body temperature of children rises 3 - 5 times faster than adults, and, as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke. Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.

For more information on preventing child heat stroke deaths, please visit www.ggweather.com/heat and www.safekids.org/nlyca.

About Safe Kids USA
Safe Kids USA is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and 19 member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. For more information visit www.safekids.org.

About the General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids Buckle Up
Beginning in 1997, General Motors and the GM Foundation have served as Safe Kids Buckle Up's exclusive funding source and helped build the program into a multifaceted national initiative, bringing motor vehicle safety messages to children and families through community and dealer partnerships. To date, more than 21 million people have been exposed to Safe Kids Buckle Up events and community outreach efforts. Certified child passenger safety technicians working through Safe Kids coalitions have examined 1.28 million child safety seats at 65,399 events and the program has donated 457,134 seats to families in need.