Editorial: Take precautions to ensure children and hot cars don't result in tragedy

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held a press conference this week on how to prevent child deaths and injuries in hot cars, which is important to consider now that the weather locally is heating up.

The agency notes on its website that "children dying from heatstroke in cars, either because they were left or became trapped, has increased in recent years. In 2018 and 2019, a record 53 children died of vehicular heatstroke each year. In 2020, during the public health emergency, 24 children lost their lives in hot cars, and in 2021 one child has died."

These are troubling statistics, as no parent or guardian wants to even consider the possibility of such a horrific outcome. The best way to avoid such calamity is to be prepared.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following tips:

• "Parents and caregivers, get in the habit of always looking inside your car before locking the doors. Remember: Park. Look. Lock. And always ask yourself, 'Where's Baby?'"

• "Place a briefcase, purse or cellphone next to the child's car seat so that you'll always check the back seat before leaving the car."

• "Keep a stuffed animal or another memento in your child's car seat when it's empty. Move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat."

• "Set a rule for your child care provider; have them call you if your child doesn't arrive as scheduled."

The agency notes, "Vehicular heatstroke deaths don't just happen when a child is forgotten. The second leading cause -- 26% -- of such deaths are children getting into unattended vehicles. Get in the habit of always locking your car doors and trunk, year-round. The temperature inside a car can reach over 115 degrees when the outside temperature is just 70 degrees."

Additional tips:

• "Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area."

• "Keep car keys out of a child's reach."

• "If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk."

• "Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult's."

• "Always look in the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away."

If you see a child alone in a vehicle:

• "Make sure the child is OK and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately."

• "If the child appears to be OK, attempt to locate the parents; if at a public place, have the facility page the car owner over an intercom system."

• "If the child is not responsive and 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."

One such death is too many. Take these tips to heart, share them with friends and neighbors, and let's keep our children safe this summer, and of course all year round.

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