“Park. Look. Lock.” New campaign aims to reduce child heatsroke deaths in vehicles

Louisiana among states with highest annual pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 4:47 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Six children have already died this year from heatstroke after being left in hot vehicles, either intentionally or unintentionally. On average, this happens to 39 children every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. We’re seeing fewer deaths than normal this year, because of COVID-19 keeping people at home more than usual. However, here in Louisiana where it can be brutally hot and humid, nearly 30 children have died in hot cars since 1998. The positive side to this story is that nearly all of those deaths are preventable.

There are three leading causes of children dying in hot cars. Number one is parents forgetting their kids in a car. It may seem hard to believe, but with the many distractions of daily life, it happens dozens of times every year. A great tip is to put a cell phone or a purse in the back seat, so you don’t forget your child.

The second leading cause is kids accidentally getting into unattended vehicles, so even if you don’t have a child of your own, make sure you always lock your car year-round. Even in the winter, the inside of a car can be more than 100 degrees.

The third leading cause is when parents intentionally leave kids in the car. This is still extremely dangerous because the car can warm by 20 degrees in 10 minutes, even in the shade or with the window cracked. In the summer the inside of a car can approach 200 degrees. A child’s body temperature heats up three to five times faster than adults, which is why this is so dangerous.

Just this week the U.S. Department of Transportation launched the “Park. Look. Lock.” national campaign to help prevent child heatstroke deaths in hot cars. When asked how it’s possible for parents to forget their children in hot cars, NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said, “Unfortunately about 55% of child heatstroke fatalities are when parents or caregivers have in fact forgotten about their children, have accidentally left their children behind. So, while we all have the best of intentions, people do get distracted in the real world and so that’s why we just want to remind everybody. It’s very important - park, look, then lock. Just look in your backseat before you park your car, because on the off chance that you may have forgotten your child - if you remember to look in your backseat you’ll avoid a terrible, terrible tragedy.”

Louisiana is one of the 18 states with the highest number of heatstroke deaths in children. Heatstroke begins when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees and is often fatal. With a heat advisory in effect today across parts of Cenla the “feels like” temperature outside could approach 110 degrees. Remember to always lock your car, and if you see a child left unattended in a vehicle call 911.

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