RISMEDIA, May 7, 2011-Safe Kids USA, its Florida partners, and the General Motors Foundation, recently unveiled the elements to their 2011 national education and awareness campaign to help reduce the number of child vehicular deaths caused by heat stroke. Sadly, two child vehicular deaths have already occurred this year from parents accidently leaving their infants in a car during a long work day. Last year, the worst year on record, 49 children in the U.S. ages two months to six years died from heat stroke while unattended in vehicles.
Through the Safe Kids USA network of 600 coalitions and chapters, the "Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car" program will unite and mobilize a wide range of partners-police and fire, hospitals, government agencies, child care centers, businesses and others-to share with parents and other caregivers prevention messages to address the dangers to children in vehicles. The program will include an advertising campaign of billboards, print ads, web banners and radio announcements as well as tip sheets. The materials will be available in both English and Spanish.
This is a significant health concern as Safe Kids USA conservatively estimates that there are 1,000
2,000 near-misses every month," says Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA. "Safe Kids USA has confirmed 250,000 cases of children trapped in vehicles. Thankfully, most have not resulted in a death.
However, these estimates do not include calls to fire or police departments.
"There is no greater tragedy for a parent or caregiver than to suffer the loss of a child due to hyperthermia," says Administrator David Strickland, U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "It's vital that children never be left unattended in a vehicle and keys are kept out of a child's reach. We urge all parents and caregivers to make a habit of looking in the vehicle-front and back-before locking the door and walking away. If a child is missing, check the vehicle, including the trunk."
"These horrific, yet preventable tragedies can happen more often than one would think, even at temperatures as low as 57 degrees F. And unfortunately, the number of heat stroke deaths from children being unattended in vehicles is trending upwards-since 1998 over 495 young children have fallen victim to this tragedy," says Kelly Powell, Safe Kids Coordinator, Palm Beach County. "That's why our goal is to create awareness and educate the millions of drivers on ways to stop these heartbreaks."
"We're launching this program in Florida because the statistics for our state are alarming," says Sergeant Russ Mager, Delray Beach Police Department. "Since records have been kept, 56 children in Florida have died from heat stroke after being unattended in a vehicle, making Florida one of leading states. Although Florida has a law addressing unattended children, the law states that children under 6 may not be left in a motor vehicle for more than 15 minutes if the motor is not running. However, what people not always realize is that in just 10 minutes a vehicle's interior temperature can rise drastically-19 degrees F-and can continue to increase."
Appy adds, "Advanced technologies may help prevent child heat stroke deaths in vehicles and Safe Kids urges child seat manufacturers and automakers to continue research and development of these technologies. However, the near-term emphasis must remain on education and awareness as it will take years for technology solutions to become widespread."
Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car is a key component of Safe Kids Buckle Up, the comprehensive Safe Kids USA child passenger safety program sponsored by the General Motors Foundation. "Providing the support necessary for the Safe Kids coalitions and community partners to effectively educate families on how they can avoid these tragic and needless deaths is an important priority for the Foundation," says Vivian Pickard, President of the General Motors Foundation. "We commend these dedicated teams and their tireless, year-round efforts to keep children safe in and around cars."
Here's what parents and caregivers need to know and why:
Lock cars and trucks. Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle. These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicle doors to help assure that kids don't enter the vehicles and become trapped.
Create reminders. Many child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child. To help prevent these tragedies parents can:
o Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings.
o Set the alarm on your cell phone/smartphone as a reminder to you to drop your child off at day care.
o Set your computer calendar program to ask, "Did you drop your child off at daycare today?" Establish a plan with your daycare that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time that you will be called within a few minutes. Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for daycare.
Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble. The body temperature of children rises 3 - 5 times faster than adults, and as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke. Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.
For more information on preventing child heat stroke deaths, please visit www.safekids.org.
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