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Children Left in Parked Cars at Risk for Heatstroke

In anticipation of another hot summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has kicked off a campaign warning Americans of the dangers of leaving children unattended in a hot car.  The NHTSA reminds adults that children left alone in a car, even in the most moderate temperatures, can be seriously injured or die from the heat in the vehicle.

To educate the public, the NHTSA 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.”

The NHTSA reports that 33 children died due to hyperthermia (heatstroke) in 2011. Two children have died due to hyperthermia thus far this year. According to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, since 1998 there have been at least 529 vehicle-related hyperthermia deaths.  More than half of the deaths occurred in children under 2 years of age, with 30% of the deaths in children less than one-year-old.

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, according to the NHTSA.

In Pennsylvania in 2011, one toddler died from heatstroke after being found inside a car, according to the report. On August 17, a 2-year-old died in Alsace Township after crawling into a car in the driveway. The child was found just one hour later, but he had already succumbed to the heat.  The outside temperature was 87 degrees.

Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80° day, for example, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

According to the NHTSA, more than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and more than 30 percent are from a child getting into a hot car on their own.  Changing up even a small part of a daily routine can result in forgetting a child is in the car back seat.  This can and does happen when one breaks a well-established routine.

“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.

SafeCar.gov, a website by the NHTSA, offers the following important tips for preventing heatstroke accidents:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
  • If you are dropping your child off at childcare, and normally it’s your spouse or partner who drops them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure the drop went according to plan.

Our Scranton personal injury attorneys urge all parents and caregivers to review the NHTSA’s information carefully. Please make sure you take a second look before locking your car to ensure no one has been left behind.

About Munley, Munley & Cartwright, P.C.

Munley, Munley & Cartwright, P.C., is a Pennsylvania accident and injury law firm that represents car accident victims and their families throughout the state of Pennsylvania and the Northeast, including those injured in accidents that involve speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, fatigued driving, aggressive driving and careless driving in hazardous weather conditions. The Pennsylvania personal injury law firm’s additional practice areas include trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, toxic chemicals, workplace injuries, nursing home litigation and other serious accidents.

Munley, Munley & Cartwright, P.C., has offices throughout Pennsylvania, including Scranton, Stroudsburg, Carbondale, Plains, Hazleton and Hamlin. To contact the law firm, call (800) 318-LAW1 or visit the firm’s website.

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