Officials tackle deaths of children in hot cars

John Egan

With 21 children having died across the country so far this year after being left alone in hot cars or trucks, safety advocates are stepping up efforts to educate Americans about what's being called "a serious threat" to kids.

“These 21 deaths were tragic and preventable – not one of those children should have lost their lives in this horrible way,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says in a news release. “We need to do everything we can to remind people to be vigilant and never leave a child alone in or around a motor vehicle.”

On July 26, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration organized the first-ever roundtable discussion about how to prevent children from dying in hot cars and trucks.

One of those at the roundtable meeting was Torine Creppy, executive director of Safe Kids USA’s child passenger safety program. She says about half of these deaths happen when a parent forgets that a child is in a car or truck.

"We should all commit to support a goal of eliminating child hyperthermia deaths by 2013, if not sooner," Creppy says in a news release. "Safe Kids believes it can be done with a coordinated national effort. It is time to combine our efforts and bring forth the resources to successfully stop these tragedies – and without regard for who gets credit for the solutions."

According to San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences, 49 children under age 14 died in 2010 because of hyperthermia. States where these deaths have occurred include California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.

“We know hyperthermia is a serious threat that needs to be better addressed immediately,” David Strickland, administrator of the highway traffic safety agency, says in a news release. "A coordinated, targeted approach to increase public awareness of this very serious safety danger should help prevent unnecessary tragedies and near-misses moving forward."

Among those being enlisted to increase public awareness are pediatricians, meteorologists, child care providers and legislators.

Creppy says only 19 states have laws that deal directly with kids being left alone in vehicles.

"Right now, more states have laws about unattended dogs in vehicles than unattended kids in vehicles. This is an oversight that must be addressed," Creppy says.

For more information about hyperthermia among kids left alone in hot cars and trucks, visit the National Highway Safety Administration website or the Safe Kids USA website.

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