NHTSA Launches Campaign to Prevent Child Heatstroke in Cars

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.

With unseasonably warm temperatures already striking many areas around the country, 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.

"This campaign is a call-to-action for parents and families, but also for everyone in every community that cares about the safety of children," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "It is hope that the simple tips from this campaign will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache."

In the coming weeks, the agency will launch a series of radio and online advertisements centered around the theme "Where's baby? Look before you lock," as well as a tool kit for parents and grassroots organizations to use in local outreach on the issue. Later this summer, NHTSA will release its findings on the effectiveness of after-market products that are intended to prevent a child from being unintentionally left behind in an enclosed parked vehicle.

Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show that 33 children died last year due to heatstroke—medically termed hyperthermia—while there were at least 49 deaths in 2010. An unknown number of children are also injured each year due to heatstroke in hot cars, suffering ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others. Often heatstroke deaths and injuries occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play while unknown to the parent. Other incidents can occur when a caregiver transporting a child as part of a change in their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping infant in a rear-facing car seat in the back of the vehicle.

"Everything we know about this terrible danger to children indicates heatstroke in hot cars can happen to any caregiver from any walk of life—and the majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "We hope our campaign not only helps caregivers avoid accidentally harming a child but also clears up some of the misconceptions about the causes of child heatstroke in cars."

NHTSA's "Where's baby? Look before you lock" campaign urges parents and caregivers to take important precautions to prevent inadvertent 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 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.
  • Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach.

In addition, NHTSA urges community members who see a child alone in a hot vehicle to immediately call 911 or the local emergency number. If the child is in distress due to heat they should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.

Download Center

  • EHS Buyer's Guide

    Download this buyer's guide to make more informed decisions as you're looking for an EHS management software system for your organization.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • COVID Return-to-Work Checklist, Fall 2021

    Use this checklist as an aid to help your organization return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and healthy manner.

  • SDS Buyer's Guide

    Learn to make informed decisions while searching for SDS Management Software.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Industry Safe

Featured Whitepapers

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - September 2021

    September 2021

    Featuring:

    • COMBUSTIBLE DUST
      Managing Combustible Dust and Risk Mitigation
    • PPE: CONSTRUCTION
      The Rising Popularity of Safety Helmets on the Jobsite
    • PPE: ELECTRICAL SAFETY
      Five Tips for a Successful Wear Trial
    • SAFETY & HEALTH
      Medical Surveillance Versus Medical Screening
    View This Issue