Dozens of Babies, Toddlers, and Young Children are Injured or Killed Each Year after Being Left in Hot Vehicles
Governor Cuomo reminded parents and caregivers to “look before you lock” and remain aware of the dangers of leaving children in hot vehicles this summer. As part of National Heatstroke Prevention Day, the Governor and several New York State agencies are raising awareness about the deadly consequences of leaving babies, toddlers, and young kids in cars, and encouraging all New Yorkers to play a role in keeping children safe from heatstroke.
“Warm temperatures and children in parked cars can be a deadly combination and has caused far too many preventable tragedies in New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “As outside temperatures continue to rise, we are urging New Yorkers to take extra precautions and remain aware and alert so we can keep our children safe and out of harm's way.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- More than 30 children, including one in New York State, died from heatstroke after being left in hot vehicles in 2014. Nationally, eight children have already died this year.
- More than 630 children in the United States have died from heatstroke since 1998.
- More than half of those children were forgotten in vehicles; nearly 30 percent gained access by themselves and became trapped; and 17 percent were left by adults not fully aware of the dangers.
- In just ten minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees, and rolling down windows often does little to cool the car down.
- Heatstroke can happen on a cloudy day, and can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees.
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan said, “There is no safe length of time, or any good reason, to leave a child in a parked car, especially in the summer when the risks are so high. Drivers across the state should take every precaution to prevent injuries and deaths to our most vulnerable New Yorkers. It is critical that anyone transporting a child takes precautionary measures that may save a life this summer.”
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “No child should ever die from heatstroke as a result of being left in a hot car. Simple precautionary steps can prevent these tragedies from ever happening. But busy parents and caretakers may require routine reminders to remove small children from parked vehicles.”
The New York State Department of Health (DOH) recently released a video, which can be viewed here, titled, “Keep kids out of hot cars!” to raise awareness of the issue.
Health officials recommend that parents and caregivers follow these tips to keep their children safe from heatstroke, and from being left alone in a hot vehicle:
- Ask your child care provider to call you if your child doesn’t show up as expected, especially if there is a change of routine.
- Set a reminder or alarm on your cell phone to remind you to drop your child off at school, or have a loved one call you to confirm that your child was dropped off or picked up. This is especially important if your routine changes, or if you are tired or overwhelmed.
- Put a “sticky” note where you will see it while in your car – on your dash or another spot. It will remind you where your children are and when to pick them up or drop them off.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole said, “It’s important to look before you lock. Make a habit of checking the back seat before walking away from your car. Infants and little children are particularly sensitive to extreme heat and their body temperatures can increase three to five times as quickly as an adult’s if they are left in a hot vehicle. Put an item you need at your final destination – such as a purse, wallet or briefcase – next to your child so you’ll have to check the back seat when you park the car.”
Anyone who sees a child alone in a hot car should not wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return, and should:
- Call 911, get the child out of the car, and spray the child with cool water if possible.
- Stay with the child until help arrives, and have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them.
- Be aware of the signs of heatstroke
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin.
- No sweating.
- Abnormal pulse.
- Confusion or strange behavior.
New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Special Prosecutor/Inspector General Patricia E. Gunning said, “When temperatures soar we are often reminded of the dangers of leaving children alone in cars, but people may not realize that adults with disabilities or special needs who are left in a vehicle under the same conditions may not be able to seek help for themselves.”
The Justice Center developed a new resource to raise awareness of this warm weather danger. Its Spotlight on Prevention toolkit includes a poster and video gallery on heatstroke dangers, a hang tag and vehicle inspection safety tips that can be used by drivers, transport aides, and the public to prevent an accidental tragedy from occurring.
In addition, a nationwide social media campaign, organized by NHTSA to highlight the importance of heatstroke prevention, is currently running on all major social media channels utilizing the hashtags #heatstrokekills and #checkforbaby.