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Look before you lock to prevent tragedy

Posted on Jul. 31, 2014 ( comments)
Hot Sun
 A parked car can reach 125 degrees in minutes on a hot day.
It only takes 10 minutes for a car to reach a deadly temperature for a child trapped inside. 

A parked car can reach 125 degrees in minutes, even when the windows are partially open. Children are especially vulnerable to heat stroke, as their body temperatures rise three to five times faster than an adult's. 

To prevent injuries and deaths of children left alone in hot cars, child advocacy groups including and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), named today National Heat Stroke Prevention Day. 

The goal of this day is to raise awareness and encourage conversation about the dangers of leaving children in hot cars. 

Leaving or forgetting a child in the backseat of a car on a hot day might be hard to fathom for many parents. But it happens more often than you might think. The NHTSA reports 44 children died in 2013 because they were left unattended in a hot vehicle. 

Seventeen children have died in hot cars so far this year. 

One of those victims was a 10-month-old baby in Wichita, Kansas.  Her foster father forgot her in the car for two hours on a 90-degree day. He said he simply forgot the baby was in her car seat. offers Look Before You Lock tips to help parents prevent tragedy:

  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to check to make sure no child, or pet,  left behind
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. Right before the child is placed in the seat, move the stuffed animal to the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that your child is in the back seat
  • Put something you'll need on the floorboard in the back seat in front of your child's car seat (cellphone, handbag, employee ID, briefcase, left shoe, etc.). This ensures you open the back door of your vehicle to retrieve your belongings
  • Make arrangements with your daycare provider or babysitter to call you within 10 minutes if your child does not arrive as expected
  • Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute. Instead, use drive-thru services when available
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway, and keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children
  • When a child is missing, call 911 and check the inside of vehicles and car trunks immediately.
You can be a part of the National Heat Stroke conversation by using the hashtag #heatstroke on social media.

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Jen Rittenhouse Jen Rittenhouse
Jen is our social media specialist. She writes stories that connect people with hospitals, health care and each other. You can reach her at

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