US National Heat Stroke Prevention Day on July 31

In recognition of National Heatstroke Prevention Day on July 31, The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is reminding Californians to take precautions when out in summer temperatures and to guard against the danger of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

"Too many children die as a result of being left unattended in vehicles for any amount of time," said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. "These tragedies are 100 percent preventable. National Heatstroke Prevention Day is a good reminder for parents and caregivers to ensure that no child is ever left unsupervised."

Before the heat wave in early July 2013, OTS warned that a car's internal temperature can rise above 100 degrees even on cooler days, while a car in 110 degree sun can reach 160 degrees in an hour. When the temperature is 100 degrees, even a half-hour in a vehicle can be enough heat to kill or severely injure young children. Senate Bill 255, also known as Kaitlyn's Law, was enacted in California in 2001 and made it illegal to leave children unattended in a motor vehicle.

OTS is again sharing the following tips and reminders to help parents and guardians follow the law and keep their children safe this summer:

  • Never leave your child unattended in a hot vehicle, not even for a minute
  • For parents of young children, place a needed item for your next stop, such as your cell phone or purse, on the floor in front of your child's safety seat. This will help to remind you that your child is in the car when you retrieve the needed items
  • Set a reminder or alarm on your cell phone that reminds you to drop off your child at school or day care, or have a loved one call to ensure that the drop-off occurred
  • Ask day care providers to call if your child is ever late being dropped off
  • Develop a routine for exiting the car; check the backseat and lock all doors and the trunk every time
  • Always lock your car doors and do not give children access to keys or keyless entry devices
  • Teach your children that cars are never to be used as a place to play
  • If your child is missing, be sure to check all vehicles and trunks
  • If you see an unattended child in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately

For more information on all OTS efforts, visit



Parents of child who died of heatstroke hope to help other families

KLTV - ‎Jun 19, 2013‎

The parents of a boy who died last summer after being left alone in a hot car for hours are speaking out, hoping their story will prevent another tragedy. Joel Gray died when his mom thought he had been at daycare, only to later find him still in the back seat of her van. It was a terrible accident that had parents asking how it could happen.

"I just kept thinking, 'I am going to wake up. This isn't happening to me,'" said mother Stephanie Gray. The mother still struggles with her son's final moments. Now, Stephanie Gray and her husband, Aaron Gray, are speaking out, letting parents know this can happen to anyone. They are urging parents to come up with a system to ensure they always check on their child.They recommend leaving something that you already take with you daily - a cell phone, purse or even a shoe - in the back seat, so when you step out of the car, you are sure to also check in the back.



NHTSA Unveils Campaign to Prevent Child Heatstroke Deaths in Cars

NHTSA - 26 Jun 2013

Nationwide ads urge parents, caregivers to think "Where's baby? Look before you lock"

WASHINGTON – With unseasonably warm temperatures already striking many areas around the country, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced its first-ever national campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in cars, urging parents and caregivers to think "Where's baby? Look before you lock." Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14, with at least 33 fatalities reported in 2011 alone.

"This campaign is a call-to-action for parents and families, but also for everyone in every community that cares about the safety of children," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "It is hope that the simple tips from this campaign will save lives and help families avoid unnecessary heartache."

In the coming weeks, the agency will launch a series of radio and online advertisements centered around the theme "Where's baby? Look before you lock," as well as a tool kit for parents and grassroots organizations to use in local outreach on the issue. Later this summer, NHTSA will release its findings on the effectiveness of after-market products that are intended to prevent a child from being unintentionally left behind in an enclosed parked vehicle.

Data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences report 33 children died last year due to heatstroke – medically termed "hyperthermia" – while there were at least 49 deaths in 2010. An unknown number of children are also injured each year due to heatstroke in hot cars, suffering ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others. Often heatstroke deaths and injuries occur after a child gets into an unlocked vehicle to play while unknown to the parent. Other incidents can occur when a caregiver transporting a child as part of a change in their daily routine inadvertently forgets a sleeping infant in a rear-facing car seat in the back of the vehicle.

"Everything we know about this terrible danger to children indicates heatstroke in hot cars can happen to any caregiver from any walk of life – and the majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "We hope our campaign not only helps caregivers avoid accidentally harming a child but also clears up some of the misconceptions about the causes of child heatstroke in cars."

NHTSA's "Where's baby? Look before you lock" campaign urges parents and caregivers to take important precautions to prevent inadvertent incidents from occurring:

Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on
Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away
Ask the childcare provider to call if the child does not show up for care as expected
Do things that serve as a reminder a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidently left in the vehicle, writing a note or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver's view to indicate a child is in the car seat
Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach
In addition, NHTSA urges community members who see a child alone in a hot vehicle to immediately call 911 or the local emergency number. If the child is in distress due to heat they should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of an unprecedented effort by NHTSA to highlight the issue of child heatstroke in hot cars. Last summer, the agency hosted a first-of-its-kind roundtable on heat-stroke and series of town hall discussions around the country that brought together representatives from the automotive industry, child safety advocates, health and safety professionals, members of the academic community, and victims.



Heatstroke-related child deaths on track to match worst year on record

Desiree Stennett, Orlando Sentinel
6:19 p.m. EDT, June 25, 2013

When two women walked past a silver sedan Tuesday and saw a toddler locked inside, they jumped into action and called 911.

Deputies and fire-rescue officials rushed to the scene with sirens blaring. As one smashed the driver's-side window to retrieve the child, others were on the ready with ice packs and medical equipment to try to reverse the effects of heatstroke.

The scene was a dramatization to show how first responders operate when children are trapped in hot cars.

More children died after being left in hot cars in 2010 across the nation — 49 — than any other year. So far this year, 15 kids have died in that manner, and officials fear another record year unless preventive steps are taken now.

"I can tell you that we're failing our children," said Richard Schwamm, a member of the board of the Children's Safety Village of Central Florida and father of two. "We're not doing enough to protect our kids."

Schwamm, an Orlando attorney, said the child-neglect laws that make these deaths a third-degree felony are not strict enough to fit the crime.

"The laws that should punish the caregivers are too weak," he said. "The laws that are intended to prevent it are not working. Our legislators are not doing enough to evoke change."

Florida law allows a parent to leave a child younger than 6 alone in a car for up to 15 minutes if the engine has been turned off.

Heatstroke happens when body temperature rises to dangerous levels and the body cannot cool itself quickly enough. If parked in direct sunlight, temperatures inside a car can spike as much as 20 degrees within 10 minutes.

In the Central Florida heat, those temperatures become lethal very quickly.

Florida is second only to Texas in the most heatstroke-related child deaths per year, found an ongoing study conducted by San Francisco State University first published in 2005 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There have been at least 64 reported deaths in Florida since 1998.

So far this year, a Miami-Dade County mom and a Highlands County mom have been charged with manslaughter after their children — an 11-month-old boy and an 18-month-old girl, respectively — died after being left unattended in cars in the May heat.

On June 2, a 2-year-old boy from Pensacola died after wandering off and locking himself inside the family car. And Saturday, a 3-year-old Manatee County boy left inside a car as his parents attended a funeral also died. No charges were filed in either case.

"Young children are particularly at high risk for this, as their bodies heat up three to fives time faster than adults," Children's Safety Village representative Carrisa Johns said at the demonstration Tuesday. "When a child's internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major internal organs begin to shut down.

"When their temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die."

Statistics show that about 18 percent of children who die of heatstroke were intentionally left behind, Schwamm said. A little more than half were unintentionally forgotten by a caregiver and about 30 percent locked themselves inside of a car, he said.

Tragedy can strike faster than you think, Johns said.

"Symptoms can quickly progress from flush, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death," she said. "These types of tragedies can happen to anyone.

"And sadly, most of the cases happen to loving, caring parents."


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