As Georgia weather heats up, federal and state officials remind Georgians of the dangers of heatstroke when children are left unattended in vehicles.
As part of its annual awareness campaign, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will kick off the national Where’s Baby? Look Before you Lock campaign with National Heatstroke Prevention Awareness Day on Saturday, May 1.
Medical officials say a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s, and the temperature in a parked vehicle rises very quickly- the combination of both can be deadly. Since 1998, nearly 900 children nationwide have died from being left in hot cars.
"In Georgia, 35 children have died from heatstroke in vehicles since 1998. Every one of these children leaves a hole in their families that can never be filled and we grieve for their loss,” said NHTSA Regional Administrator Carmen Hayes. “We want to do everything we can to stop these preventable tragedies, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining us in this mission.”
Heatstroke fatalities have occurred all over Georgia, in both rural and urban areas, but the metro Atlanta area has had the highest number of deaths with 15 fatalities.
“While the numbers are improving, the data indicates that this is still a problem and we need reminders, especially as we enter the hot summer months and especially now that we are all beginning to plan for post-pandemic normal,” said the Georgia Department of Early Childhood and Learning Commissioner Amy Jacobs.
Not only have there been instances of adults leaving children in parked vehicles, NHTSA officials said children also climb into unlocked cars without parents knowing about it, often with a tragic outcome. Those occurrences increased in 2020, since more people spent additional time at home during the pandemic.
In a press conference on Thursday, Hayes said there are three simple steps parents and childcare providers should remember.
"First, never leave a child in a vehicle unattended. Number two, make it a habit to look in the back seat every time you exit the car. And, number three, always lock the car and put the keys out of reach," Hayes said.
Follow this link to find out more from the NHTSA about heatstroke prevention for children.