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Kids and Hot Cars

Sylvia Scholl is the director of WakeMed’s trauma program.

Though it is only March, temperatures around the country are starting to rise and the risk of heat stroke for children left in vehicles is increasing. On March 8, a 17-month-old girl became the first victim of heat stroke in 2010 after being left in a vehicle at her father’s office in Fort Myers, Fla. on a day that reached 73 degrees. 

As Spring approaches, bringing with it warmer temperatures, Safe Kids Wake County, led by WakeMed,  is working to increase awareness and urge caregivers to never leave children alone in a vehicle.   With the goal of having no more children die from heat stroke when they are “forgotten” in cars, safety experts and child advocates remind parents and caregivers to always check for sleeping children before leaving a vehicle.

Between 1998 and 2009, 445 children died from heat stroke because they were unattended in vehicles that became too hot for them to survive. A child’s body heats up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s and unattended children have no way of protecting themselves in a hot vehicle. The overall goal of the campaign is to make sure no more children will die in 2010 because they were unattended in a vehicle.

When left unattended by an adult, 30 percent of affected kids gained entry into an unlocked vehicle, became trapped and were overcome by heat. It takes only minutes for a child to be at risk of death and serious, permanent injury in a hot car. Drivers must keep car doors locked and keys out of reach from young children. 

More than 50 percent of the children who died from heat stroke were forgotten by a caring adult who became distracted when they left the vehicle.

Take the following steps to keep this from happening:

  • Call 911 if they see a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • Never leave children alone in a car – even for 1 minute.
  • Set your cell phone or Blackberry reminder to be sure you drop your child off at daycare.
  • Set your computer “Outlook” program to ask you, “Did you drop off at daycare today?”
  • Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or whatever is to be carried from the car on the floor in front of the child in a back seat.  This forces the adult to open the back door and observe the child.
  • Have a plan with your child care provider to call if your child does not arrive when expected. 
  • Keep keys and remote entry key fobs out of children’s reach. 
  • Lock all vehicles at all times.
  • Check cars and trunks first if a child goes missing. 

For more information on preventing hyperthermia deaths, please visit www.ggweather.com/heat and www.safekids.org/nlyca.

Be sure to NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE in a car.

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