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Don't Leave Kids Alone in Cars, NHTSA Reminds Parents

Parents and caregivers need to be especially vigilant in making sure that young children aren't left unattended in park cars, especially as the weather gets warmer.

An average of 27 children each year are killed from hyperthermia that is caused by excessive heat in parked cars, and these accidents account for about 60 percent of non-crash vehicle fatalities involving children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In a Consumer Advisory issued this week, the NHTSA recommends that parents and caregivers take a number of steps to make sure that these accidents don't happen, including:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or with the engine running and the air conditioning on.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
  • If you are bringing your child to daycare, and normally it's your spouse or partner who brings them, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure everything went according to plan.
  • Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.

The tragedy that can result from a child being left in a parked car was illustrated earlier this week in El Cerrito, California, when a four-month-old boy died in a car in a train station parking lot. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported today, the child's father forgot that the baby was still strapped in the car's backseat when he left the car in the lot for the day, and the child died after the temperature inside the car reached well over 100 degrees.

Making sure that kids aren't left alone in cars is just one vehicle-related step for parents and caregivers to keep in mind. Earlier this month, we offered a list of tips on kids and cars -- everything from choosing the right safety seat option, to preventing injuries from power windows and trunk entrapments. Learn more: Kids and Cars: 10 Safety Tips.