When I was a kid, safety was an option. Sure, we had seat belts in the car, but they were conveniently tucked down into the seat. My mom’s arm was our seat belt. And she could knock the wind out of you. My dad used to call her the seat belt. Now he calls her the air bag. She’d also go into the grocery store for hours and leave us in the hot car. That big Oldsmobile was an awesome babysitter and it didn’t charge ten dollars an hour to do it. Today, if you left your kids in a hot car, mommy would go to prison for a long, long time. And maybe she’d get out just in time for your college graduation.
It’s only the beginning of May and temperatures are already crazy hot. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced its first ever national campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in cars, urging parents and caregivers to think “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.” 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.
This campaign will not only help prevent parents to avoid unnecessary heartache, but it will also hopefully reach babysitters, nannies, school carpool drivers, grandparents and relatives that may be transporting small children.
Not only did 33 children die last year due to heatstroke (medically termed “hyperthermia”), there were 49 deaths in 2010. And, an unknown number of children are injured each year due to heatstroke in hot cars, suffering ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others.
Here are a few safety tips to follow. Additional tips can be found at www.safercar.gov/heatstroke.
• 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 does not show up for care as expected.
• Do things that serve as a reminder a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidently left in the vehicle, writing a note or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver’s view to indicate a child is in the car seat. I have a friend who attached a pacifier to her key ring as a reminder.
• Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
In addition, should you see a child left unattended in a hot vehicle, please call 911 immediately. If the child is already suffering heat stroke, they should be removed from the car and attempts made to cool them down.
Until next week…don’t put baby in a corner and don’t leave baby in a hot car.