According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Hyperthermia (heat-stroke) is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of fourteen.” And children younger than four years of age are at highest risk for heat-related injuries because their bodies absorb more heat and they sweat less than adults do. In fact, children can over heat 3 to 5 times faster than an adult.
The summer months are approaching and it is extremely important that anyone caring for a child becomes extra vigilant in protecting youngsters from being left in hot vehicles. Over half of these tragic deaths have occurred when a caregiver has forgotten the child. Temperatures inside of a vehicle can climb rapidly and in just a few minutes, temperatures can become deadly for little ones.
Nineteen states in the US have laws against leaving children unattended in vehicles. Is your state one of them? If so, do you know the law? Did you know that in Texas it is illegal to leave a child under the age of seven alone in the car for more than 5 minutes? Click on the link below to learn more about your state’s regulations:
- Connecticut: Sec. 53-21a. Leaving child unsupervised in place of public accommodation or motor vehicle.
- Florida: FSS 316.6135 Leaving children unattended or unsupervised in motor vehicle
- Maryland: 5-801 Unattended Children
- Missouri: Section 568.052 Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle who causes an accident--first and second degree, penalties.
- Nebraska: Revised 28-710 Child Protection Act
- Pennsylvania: 3701.1. Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle
- Rhode Island: 11-9-21. Leaving child unsupervised in place of public accommodation or motor vehicle.
- Tennessee: 55-10-803. Offense of leaving child unattended in motor vehicle
- Washington: RCW 46.61.685 Leaving children unattended in standing vehicle with motor running — Penalty
Help protect your child from hyperthermia by following these safety tips from NHTSA and Safe Kids:
- Never leave infants or children unattended in a vehicle—even if the windows are partly open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
- Don’t let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
- Ask your childcare center to call you if your child doesn’t arrive on time for childcare.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
Take steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle, such as:
- Write yourself a note and place it where you’ll see it when you leave the vehicle.
- Place your purse, briefcase or something else you’re sure to need in the back seat so you’ll be sure to see a child left in the vehicle.
- Keep an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. Once the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she leaves the vehicle.
- Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you see a child left alone in a hot vehicle. When children are in distress due to heat, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. Warning signs of hyperthermia include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse, a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely. Cool the child rapidly.
Help protect other children by spreading the message “Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car”. Click and print out these flyers from Safe Kids (English Version; Spanish Version) and give to family, friends and neighbors. Take some flyers to your daycare, school, grocery store, park and anywhere that will help spread the word. Together, we can save lives.
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Never Leave Your Child Alone In The Car -
Prevent Heat Stroke
Department of Geosciences. Hyperthermia Deaths of Children in Vehicles
National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse Children Unattended in Cars Updated June 2010
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2011) Consumer Advisory: NHTSA Cautions Parents on the Risks of Hyperthermia
Safe Kids WorldWide. Safe Kids Reminds Parents of the Dangers of Heat Stroke
Texas Department of State Health Services- Safe Riders. Hyperthermia Dangers in Texas
Author : Diba Tillery RN, BSN, IBCLC, CPST