July 24, 2014 | Washington, DC
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Contact: Karen Aldana, 202-366-9550, Public.Affairs@dot.gov
17 Children Have Died of Heatstroke So Far This Year; 44 Deaths Occurred in 2013
WASHINGTON – To help prevent tragic, child heatstroke deaths, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and David Friedman, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator, this morning joined other federal officials, child advocates, and early learning providers at the Rosemount Early Childhood Development Center in Northwest Washington as part of the "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock." public education campaign. The campaign highlights the dangers of leaving children in hot cars and how parents and the public can better protect children.
"The majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most conscientious and loving parents and caregivers, but they can be stopped," said Secretary Foxx. "Even one heatstroke death is one too many because every death caused by leaving a child unattended in a hot car is 100 percent avoidable."
Heatstroke caused by leaving a child unintended in a hot vehicle kills in minutes. Forty-four children died in 2013 because they were left unattended in a hot vehicle and 17 deaths have been reported so far in 2014. Vehicles heat up quickly, and not even a window rolled down two inches can prevent that. The temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes if the outside temperature is in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with temperatures in the 60s or 70s heatstroke poses a serious risk. A child will die of heatstroke, once their body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
Secretary Foxx and Acting Administrator Friedman were joined at this morning's event by Mark Greenberg, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families; Leticia Manning Ryan, MD, MPH, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, John Hopkins Children's Center; and Reginald McKinnon, a father who lost a child to heatstroke. Together they witnessed a live demonstration of how emergency personnel respond to 911 calls resulting from children being left in hot vehicles.
"The nation's network of Head Start staff and child care providers has been provided training and materials to raise awareness about heatstroke. HHS has the potential of reaching the parents of 1.5 million children in child care and 1.1 million children in Head Start with the critical message and simple steps that can save lives," said HHS Administration for Children and Families Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg.
"Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense against these needless tragedies—but everyone in the community has a role to play," said Acting Administrator Friedman. "Prevention means never leaving children unattended in a vehicle and always checking the backseat before walking away. If a child is in distress in a hot car, bystanders should call 911 immediately."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first launched the "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock" campaign in 2012, after a first-of-its-kind roundtable and series of town hall discussions around the country that brought together representatives from the automotive industry, child safety advocates, health and safety professionals, members of the academic community, and impacted families.
DOT and NHTSA urge parents and caregivers to take the following precautions to prevent heatstroke incidents from occurring:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on;
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away;
- Ask the childcare provider to call if the child doesn't show up for care as expected;
- Do things that serve as a reminder that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a phone, purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle, or writing a note or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver's view to indicate a child is in the car seat; and
- Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach.
In addition, DOT and NHTSA urge community members who see a child alone in a hot vehicle to immediately call 911 or the local emergency number. A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.
To learn more about NHTSA's "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock." campaign, visit www.safercar.gov/heatstroke