TOWSON, MD (July 31, 2018) – After crashes, heatstroke is the number two vehicle-related killer of children in the United States with an average of 37 fatalities nationwide per year. That is why AAA Mid-Atlantic is teaming up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today, on National Heatstroke Prevention Day, in an attempt to reduce these deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of vehicular heatstroke and leaving children alone in hot cars.
The auto club is also reminding drivers that pets and the elderly should never be left alone in a vehicle as well, as they are as vulnerable to heatstroke as small children.
Summertime is the peak season for these tragic incidents. On an 80-degree day, the inside of a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes, and on a 95-degree day a car can heat up to over 180 degrees. Heatstroke can even occur in outdoor temperatures as low as 57 degrees.
To-date for 2018, 29 children have died from heatstroke as a result of being left in a vehicle, according to data compiled by the San Jose State University, Department of Meteorology & Climate Science. In 2017, there were 43 vehicular heatstroke deaths of children, a 10 percent increase from the 39 deaths in 2016. Since 1998, there have been 772 heatstroke-related deaths of children.
“Parents and caregivers think this could never happen to them – they could never forget their child in the backseat of a car. However, in our fast-paced, sleep-deprived world, this tragic situation can and has occurred. It is even more likely to happen when there is a change in a daily routine, such as different driver dropping off the child to daycare,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat for children before you leave and lock the car. If you have to put a reminder post-it note on your dashboard, an alarm on your phone, or a stuffed animal in the front seat to remember to take a child out of the car, do it. And if a different parent or caregiver is dropping off a child to daycare, call the driver to confirm the child was indeed dropped off.”
According to NHTSA, the top reasons for vehicular heatstroke deaths of children were:
54 percent were forgotten by a caregiver
28 percent were playing in an unattended vehicle.
17 percent were intentionally left in vehicle by an adult
AAA Mid-Atlantic and NHTSA offer tips to help parents and caregivers prevent forgetting children in the back seat of their cars:
Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioner on.
Always look in both the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
Create electronic reminders such as an alarm on your cell phone or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car, such as a purse, briefcase, or cell phone, as well as reminders in the front seat such as a stick-it note on the dashboard or a stuffed animal in the front seat.
Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk, and keep the keys out of a child’s reach. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
If you are a bystander and see a child in a hot vehicle:
If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system. If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
If the child is not responsive or appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child—even if that means breaking a window—many states have “Good Samaritan” laws, including Maryland, that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.
The warning signs of heatstroke vary, but can include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin; no sweating; and dizziness, nausea, or confusion.
If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, quickly spray the child with cool water or with a garden hose— NEVER put a child in an ice bath. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
NHTSA is hosting a Heatstroke Prevention Day tweet-up today from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. using the hashtag #HeatstrokeKills and #CheckForBaby to help generate awareness of this important safety issue. Additional tips on keeping children safe at safekids.org.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.