AAA Mid-Atlantic: It’s National Heatstroke Prevention Day – Hot Cars Can Kill – and Yes, it IS Hot Enough Outside Today
After crashes, heatstroke is the second leading cause of vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14; forty-five percent of heatstroke deaths in 2018 happened at temperatures below 90 degrees
PHILADELPHIA, PA (July 31, 2018) – Twenty-nine children have lost their lives in 2018 as a result of heatstroke. 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. 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.
Don’t be Fooled by the Temperature
If you’re under the impression that the 29 children killed by heatstroke so far this year died during a stifling heatwave, you’d be wrong. The second heatstroke death this year happened in Arizona, in March, at just 71 degrees. Thirteen of the 29 deaths (45 percent) happened at temperatures under 90 degrees. 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.
- As of July 31, 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 happens repeatedly,” said Jana L. Tidwell, 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 sticky 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.”
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:
- 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 sticky note 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:
- Make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
- 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.
Good Samaritans - Pennsylvania
Many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency. In Pennsylvania, Rep. Karen Boback introduced House Bill 1152, which would provide civil immunity for any damage that may be done to a vehicle when forceful entry is necessary to rescue a child. The bill was passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee last July and is currently awaiting further action.
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. Find additional tips on keeping children safe at safekids.org.
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