Written By Jim Finch, Local 223 Safety Director
Summer time is here again, which is a great time to remind everyone to Look Before You Lock. Several years ago I heard a radio commercial about a new campaign called “Where’s the Baby? “Look before you lock,” a U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Administration campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in cars.
Who is at greatest risk for heat-related illness? Infants and children up to four years of age, people 65 years of age and older, people who are overweight, and people who are ill or on certain medications.
ACCORDING TO HEALTHYCHILDREN.ORG, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 15. On average, 38 children die from heat-related deaths trapped inside vehicles every year, one child every nine days. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death.
Each summer we see evening news reports about infants who have died due to heatstroke after being left in the car unintentionally. This campaign is a call to action for parents and families and everybody else who cares about children. Incidents mostly occur when there is a change from the normal schedule and the parent who isn’t accustomed to dropping the child off at daycare even for one day could get distracted and forgets. HEATSTROKE FACT SHEET
The Greenhouse Effect in Vehicles
• The inside of a vehicle heats up VERY quickly! Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes.
• 80% of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes
• Cracking the windows does not help slow the heating process OR decrease the maximum temperature
• Children have died from heatstroke in cars in temps as low as 60 degrees.
• A child’s body overheats 3‐5 times faster than an adult body.
• A change in daily routine, lack of sleep, stress, hormone changes, fatigue, and simple distractions are things ALL new parents experience and are just some of the reasons children have been unknowingly left alone in vehicles.
• Rear‐facing car seats look the same whether there is a baby in it or not.
• Children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their rear‐facing child safety seats; becoming quiet, unobtrusive little passengers.
A child should never be left unattended in a vehicle for any reason. The “Look before you lock” campaign urges parents and caregivers to take important precautions to prevent inadvertent incidents from occurring:
Prevention / Safety Tips
KidsAndCars.org believes the solution to these preventable tragedies is a combination of education and technology. KidsAndCars.org would like all vehicles to come equipped with a system that would alert a driver if a child has been left in the vehicle. Here are some simple tips parents and caregivers can follow to prevent heat stroke tragedies.
Create simple habits to help keep your child safe.
Make sure your child is never left alone in a car:
✔ Make it a habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure no one is left behind.
✔ To enforce this habit, place an item that you can’t start your day without in the back seat. Place an employee ID, purse, laptop, phone or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle. Write a note or use a stuffed animal placed in the driver’s view or in the front passenger seat to indicate a child is in the back seat.
✔ Ask your child care provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
✔ Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle. Miscommunication can lead to everyone thinking someone else has removed the child.
Make sure children cannot get into a parked car:
✔ Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway. Ask neighbors and visitors to do the same.
✔ Never leave car keys within reach of children.
✔ Teach children to honk the horn if they become stuck inside a car.
✔ If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all area vehicles very carefully.
Additional safety tips:
✔ Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
✔ If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all area vehicles very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them.
✔ If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
✔ Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur.
✔ Use drive-thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.) and pay for gas at the pump.
Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air condition is on. Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
We here at the Local 223 Safety Office wish you and your children a safe summer!
Jim Finch – Local 223 Safety Director
EDITORS’s note – It’s not part of the NHTSA campaign, but all of the same rules apply to pets. Do not leave dogs or cats alone in vehicles when it is hot and call 911if you see an animal alone in a hot car.