With summer here, and temperatures heating up across the nation, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is warning parents and caregivers of young children to be mindful that it doesn’t take long for a child to die of heatstroke if left unattended in a parked car.
Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show a disturbing trend. At least 44 children in the United States lost their lives in 2013 after being left in unattended motor vehicles “ and an unknown number of others were moderately to severely injured. The average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998 is 38. There have already been two such deaths reported this year.
It doesn’t take much to lose a child to heatstroke. When outside temperatures are in the low 80’s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. Children’s bodies in particular overheat easily, and infants and children under four years old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness. Heatstroke death and injuries often occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play without a parent or caregiver’s knowledge. Other incidents can occur when a parent or caregiver who is not used to transporting a child as part of their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping infant in a rear-facing seat in the back of the vehicle. According to a new study by Safe Kids Worldwide, 14 percent of parents say they have left a child alone inside a parked vehicle despite the risk of heatstroke. Based on the U.S. population, that number is projected to be nearly two million parents transporting more than 3.3 million children who say they have intentionally left their infants, toddler, and kindergarten child alone in a parked vehicle. For parents of children three and under, the percentage increases to 23 percent. Dads are almost three times more likely than moms to leave a child alone in a parked car “ 23 percent compared to eight percent.
Below are some good facts to know about children in vehicles during the summer time.
—¦In 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
—¦Cracking a window does little to keep the car cool.
—¦With temperatures in the 60s, your car can heat up to well above 110 degrees.
—¦A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s.
—¦Heatstroke can happen when the temperature is as low as 57 degrees outside!
—¦A child dies when his/her temperature reaches 107.
Legal Consequences of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle under Florida law (Florida Statute 316.6135):
(1)ƒA children younger than 6 may not be left unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes; and for any period of time if the motor of the vehicle is running or the health of the child is in danger.
(2)ƒAny person who violates this law commits a misdemeanor of the second degree
(3)ƒAny person who leaves a child in the car and the vehicle is running or the health of the child is in danger is guilty of a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable by a fine not less than $50 and not more than $500.
(4) Any person who violates this law and causes a child serious injury or death commits a 3rd degree felony.
Prevention Tips to Avoid a Tragic Heatstroke:
—¦Never leave a child alone in a car.
—¦Don’t let your kids play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
—¦Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
—¦Keep a large teddy bear or other stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s empty. Move the teddy bear to the front seat when you place the child in the seat as a visual reminder.
—¦If you are dropping your children off at childcare, but normally your spouse or partner drops them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure they were not left in the car.
—¦Become vigilant about looking in the vehicle before locking the door. Always look front and back before walking away ” always!
In addition, NHTSA and Safe Kids 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.
Heatstroke in vehicles is the leading cause of all non-crash-related fatalities involving children 14 and younger. These deaths are completely preventable,
To learn more about NHTSA’s “Where’s Baby? Look before you lock.” campaign, visit www.SaferCar.gov/heatstroke.