As temperatures rise, so does the risk of vehicular, heat-related illnesses and deaths in children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is promoting ‘Park. Look. Lock.’ An effort designed to ensure that child passengers are not left behind in the car by parents and caregivers, and that children cannot gain unsupervised access to motor vehicles.
NHTSA hopes that before walking away after parking a vehicle, that drivers look in the back of their car and lock the doors. Vehicle heatstroke is one of the leading causes of traffic-related death for children in the United States, resulting in the deaths of 883 young children since 1998.
“More than half (54%) of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 26% are from a child getting into a hot car unsupervised,” said Regional Administrator Susan DeCourcy. “We want to get the word out to everyone: please Park. Look. Lock.”
Families staying home throughout 2020 likely contributed to a decline in ‘forgotten’ circumstances. Unfortunately, the percentage of children playing in and around the car and getting locked in has increased.
“We have to impress upon our children that the vehicle is not a playground and that playing in and around the car is very dangerous,” said DeCourcy. “Most years, one child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days in the United States from being left in a car or crawling into an unlocked vehicle. What is most tragic is that every single one of these deaths could have been prevented.”
The bottom line is this: We are all susceptible to forgetfulness. We live in a fast-paced society, and our routines are often upended at a moment’s notice. It is during these moments of hurriedness and change in routine that many of these preventable tragedies occur. For this reason, it is more important than ever to Park. Look. Lock.
NHTSA urges everyone to make it a habit to look in the back seat every time they exit the car, never leave a child in a vehicle unattended, and always lock the car and put the keys out of reach.
If you are a bystander and see a child in a hot vehicle:
Make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system.
If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
If the child is not responsive or appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child — even if that means breaking a window. Many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.
Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include red, hot, and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid or a slow weak pulse; nausea; or confusion is also key. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, quickly spray the child with cool water or with a garden hose — never put a child in an ice bath. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
For more information on vehicle heatstroke, visit www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/heatstroke.