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NHTSA, Safe Kids urge parents to 'look before you lock'

Posted On Fri, May 31, 2013

When it comes to finances, securing affordable auto insurance rates may be of crucial importance. But it pales in comparison to life and death situations, many of which happen during the summer when parents who are driving unintentionally leave their young child behind in a hot car.

With temperatures climbing as June 21 approaches, the official start of summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an awareness campaign called "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock," which reminds motorists of the dangers associated with driving with their children in the car when it's especially hot out.

Ray LaHood, secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, indicated that tragically, young children can and have died because a parent or guardian failed to check their vehicle before exiting it.

"Each year, especially during the summer months, we hear reports of the tragic loss of young children as a result of heatstroke in hot vehicles," said LaHood. "We hope everyone who cares about the safety of our children - parents, grandparents, caregivers and others - will follow the simple, and important, safeguards that can save lives and avoid unnecessary heartache."

David Strickland, administrator for the NHTSA, added that these deaths are tragedies in every sense of the word, as loving parents often make innocent mistakes that cost them the life of their flesh and blood.

"We want to reduce the risk of these preventable deaths and help caregivers avoid accidentally harming a child, as well as address some of the misconceptions about the causes of child heatstroke in cars," said Strickland.

Smart habits to adopt to avoid heatstroke in hot cars
Teaming with the NHTSA in relaying the message to look before locking is childhood advocacy organization Safe Kids. In partnership with the DOT, the organizations have put together a list of tips and tools parents can use to remind themselves when someone other than themselves is in a car so that these tragedies can be avoided.

For example, even if one is absolutely positive that they are the only one in the car, it's good to get in the habit of looking behind the driver's seat before exiting the vehicle. Once the check has been performed, then it's safe to walk away.

Some parents may rationalize or not think it's too hot outside, allowing them to make a quick stop into a convenience store or bank while their son or daughter remains in the car. But even short trips can end in tragedy, as temperatures can rise quickly. Safe Kids and NHTSA say it's best to never leave a young child unattended in the vehicle.

Occasionally, children have died from heat stroke after gaining entry at home while the car's parked in the driveway. Parents are encouraged to keep their vehicle locked whenever they are away from it and to teach their children about the dangers associated with playing around a car, no matter what the weather might be like. In short, stress the message that a car is not a toy.

Something else that motorists may want to consider is placing something in the back of the vehicle that will force them to look behind them when the time comes. For example, if going to work, put a briefcase or laptop in the backseat, which will prompt motorists to retrieve it before they exit.

According to data from the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, nearly three dozen children died last year because of heat stroke, with three-fourths of the incidences occurring in the summer months.

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