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"Look Before You Lock" – Keeping MO Kids Out of Hot Cars

PHOTO: Temperature sign reads 106 degrees. Photo credit: safekidsusa
PHOTO: Temperature sign reads 106 degrees. Photo credit: safekidsusa
August 22, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in Kansas City today, promoting the "Where's baby? Look Before You Lock" campaign. It's part of a nationwide tour to remind people of the dangers of children left in hot cars.

As the school year begins, life is getting very busy for families. Sometimes parents get frazzled getting children to school and running them around to all their activities. NHTSA says that's why parents and day-care providers need to make sure children are not accidentally left in vehicles.

Kate Carr, president of Safe Kids Worldwide, says eight children died inside cars in the first week of August - but it happens year-round.

"It is not just a summertime occurrence. Deaths from hyperthermia or heat stroke have occurred in 11 months of the year in 46 of the 50 states in our country."

Carr says children left inside even for a couple of minutes can be in danger. Anyone who sees a child alone inside someone else's vehicle, Carr says, always should call 911.

Even with the weather moderating, says Dr. Denise Dowd, an emergency room physician at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, children left in cars still are in danger.

"It always heats up way above that inside of a locked car - because, even on a day when it's only 80 degrees or 70 degrees, it can quickly get up above 100 degrees. Kids can get hyperthermia there, for sure."

When routines are disrupted, experts say, parents tend to forget some details - so they urge using visual reminders. Dowd says that's a good idea, because it only takes a few minutes to put a child in extreme danger.

"Unfortunately, kids that get hyperthermia, especially babies, get sick pretty darned quickly. A child's body can triple the rate of an adult's, and once they get above 106 or 107, they can't survive that."

In half the cases, parents forget their child, NHTSA says - and in a third of the cases, children get inside an unlocked car themselves and can't get out.

Parents can ask a child-care provider to call them if a child doesn't show up as expected. Another recommendation is to keep a stuffed toy in the baby seat. Whenever the child is in the car, the toy is next to you as a reminder to "look before you lock."

More information is online at safekids.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO