Look before you lock

At least three children died from heatstroke in vehicles this summer in Louisiana. The Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund (LCTF) and key partners are launching a statewide “Look Before You Lock” campaign to remind parents and caregivers of the risks of leaving young children unattended in vehicles.

“I can’t imagine the mental and emotional distress that a family experiences after losing a child due to hyperthermia from being left unattended in a hot vehicle.  Yet, this unfortunate tragedy can happen to any of us,” said Dr. Dana R. Hunter, Executive Director of the Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund. “It is our professional and personal responsibility to prevent these heatstroke-related fatalities.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a child's body temperature can rise five times faster than that of an adult and a car's interior temperature can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

In the last 10 years, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has investigated 27 heat-related deaths.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) documented, using data from the San Francisco State University Department of GeoSciences, that more than 458 children died of hyperthermia after being left in cars in the United States between the years 1998-2010. We should all be reminded that cars heat up quickly.

“What’s sad is most hot car deaths can be prevented. People don’t realize a child can begin suffering from heatstroke in a matter of minutes,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. “The best thing to do is to build a habit of checking the backseat each time you leave your car, whether a child is with you or not. This one simple habit could prevent a tragedy.”

In an effort to prevent these incidents, LCTF urges all parents and caregivers to do three things:

1) NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended;

2) Make it a habit to look in the backseat EVERY time you exit the car;

3) ALWAYS lock the car and put the keys out of reach.

If you ever see a child left alone in a vehicle, call 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Warning signs of heatstroke include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea, confusion or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, cool the child rapidly by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose, and call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

“It is always heartbreaking to learn of a child’s death from being left in a car, because it is so easily preventable,” said Amanda Brunson, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana. “We understand that parents have busy schedules and can get distracted, so leaving something important to them in the backseat – like a shoe or their cell phone – can literally save a child’s life.”

Don’t let your child or someone else’s child become a statistic. Always open the back door to check the back seat before leaving your vehicle. When walking alongside other cars, look in to be sure that no child is left unattended. We don’t want to lose another child to heatstroke from being left unattended in a car.

Always remember to “Look Before You Lock”.

Visit www.lctf.org for more information on the “Look Before You Lock” campaign.

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