Senior Auto Safety Official Leads California Town Hall Meeting On Ways to Prevent Child Fatalities & Injuries in Hot Cars

| Washington, DC

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Contact: Ellen Martin
Phone: 202-366-9550

NHTSA Deputy Administrator Ronald Medford, Child Safety Advocates and Health Professionals Highlight Dangers from Heat Stroke in Cars

SACRAMENTO -- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Deputy Administrator Ronald Medford hosted a town hall meeting in Sacramento today to discuss strategies to prevent child heat stroke deaths and injuries in hot cars. Nationwide, at least 24 children have died this summer after being left unattended in vehicles.

"When it comes to child heat stroke in hot cars, one thing is clear: these deaths and injuries are 100 percent preventable," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Medford. "Our challenge as a public health and safety agency is to pave the way for government, advocates, and our communities to put an end to these unnecessary tragedies."

NHTSA research shows that hyperthermia, commonly known as heat stroke, is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of fourteen. Reports by the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show that at least 49 children under the age of 14 died in 2010 due to hyperthermia. The body temperature of children can rise three to five times as quickly as an adult. Not only are children left alone in vehicles during hot weather at risk of death from hyperthermia, those who survive could be subject to serious injuries including brain damage, permanent blindness, and organ failure, among others.

"It's critical for parents and caregivers to know that hyperthermia is a problem that sees no social, economic, or racial boundaries—child heat stroke can happen to anyone," said Deputy Administrator Medford. "As we head into more temperate fall weather, we must remain vigilant, as the temperature inside a car can still climb well into the dangerous range for a young child."

Today's town hall meeting included area health professionals, law officers, and concerned parents and is the latest push in NHTSA's nationwide effort to step up child heat stroke education and prevention. In July, NHTSA convened a roundtable in Washington, DC to raise awareness about hyperthermia, bringing together for the first time ever child safety experts, representatives from the automotive industry, manufacturers, and victims' families. NHTSA officials have already made stops in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina and are planning additional activities in Nevada and Florida.

For NHTSA research on the issue of hyperthermia, click here.

To view Department of Geosciences data, click here.

Safety tips for parents and caregivers are available at