Hot cars and the child in back

We are writing you today as concerned parents, professionals, and community members. 2018 was officially the worst year in United States history for hot car deaths — 52 children died of vehicular heatstroke. In 2019, there have been 14 child deaths nationwide to-date. These children died simply because they were forgotten or left unattended in a vehicle. What makes these deaths more tragic is that they were completely preventable.

July 31 is National Heatstroke Prevention Day. Heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children, outside of crashes. Although warmer weather brings a greater risk, children have died in hot cars on days when the temperature was in the lower 50s. It is important that parents, caregivers and community members remain vigilant at all times to ensure that these preventable deaths do not continue.

Child Care Aware of Virginia encourages the public to never leave a child in a vehicle unattended, always look in the back seat every time you leave your car, always lock your car and always put your keys out of reach from children.

Even a loving, responsible parent can unknowingly leave their child vulnerable to these senseless deaths. Life is hectic and routines change. With our children’s lives on the line, we can’t afford to be distracted. Establish a system to remind yourself that your child is in the car. Try placing a briefcase, purse or cell phone next to the child’s car seat; that way you will always check the back seat before you leave your car. We recommend ordering a BabyIn/BabyOut hangtag for your rear view mirror to remind you to #LookBeforeYouLock. Ask your child care provider to alert you if your child does not show up as planned. You can even set a daily reminder on your cell phone.

Bystanders should know that Virginia has a “Good Samaritan” law to protect from lawsuits for helping a person in an emergency. If you are a bystander and see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and, if necessary, safely do what is needed to rescue the child.

SARAH CHAMBERLAIN

Child Care Aware of Virginia

Midlothian

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