NHTSA Reminds Parents Not To Leave Children Unattended In Vehicles


August 2, 2022

Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign reminded parents and caregivers that leaving children unattended in a motor vehicle can quickly lead to fatal consequences, especially in warm weather. NHTSA also issued summer safety tips for parents and caregivers.

From 1996 to now, at least 241 children have died of heatstroke after being trapped inside parked cars, and at least 19 have passed already this year. Most children were in child safety seats, left behind, or forgotten by an adult. Others gained access to an unlocked car and then became trapped inside.

“During warm weather, temperatures can rapidly rise inside a vehicle, even if parked in the shade. A tragedy can occur within minutes if children are left in a fast car,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.

Young children trapped in a hot, closed vehicle are at particularly significant risk on a sunny or humid day. Even when the temperature is as mild as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a fast car can heat to dangerous levels for children within a short period.

“It’s not only parents and caregivers who should be extremely vigilant. Anyone who observes a small child alone in a closed vehicle should contact emergency services immediately,” says Martin Eichelberger, M.D., president of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

NHTSA and SAFE KIDS urge parents to be particularly cautious about their children’s safety in the summer and offer the following safety precautions to combat heat-related injuries in cars and other motor vehicles:
Never leave your child unattended in a motor vehicle, even with a window open.
Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
Always lock car doors and trunks and keep keys out of children’s reach.
Watch children closely around cars, particularly when loading or unloading items.
Ensure that children exit the vehicle at your destination.
Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
Place an unmistakable reminder of a child’s presence where you’ll be sure to see it before you leave the vehicle. For example, place a diaper bag next to your briefcase or lunch bag.
Check the temperature of child safety seats and seat belt buckles before restraining your child.
Car trunks can also be especially hazardous. In scorching weather, within minutes, a child trapped in the trunk of a vehicle can suffer a heatstroke that leads to permanent disability or even death. Remember these safety precautions:
Keep the trunk of your car locked at all times, especially when the vehicle is parked in the driveway or near your home.
Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from getting into the trunk from the passenger area of a car.
Put car keys out of children’s reach and sight.
Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach older children how to unlock the door if trapped in a motor vehicle.
For the fourth year, SAFE KIDS and General Motors are conducting a national public awareness campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles. The Never Leave Your Child Alone initiative includes brochures in English and Spanish that deliver potentially lifesaving information. Brochures can be downloaded at www.safekids.org and www.gmability.com.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injury – the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. More than 300 state and local SAFE KIDS coalitions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico comprise the campaign.

Source: NHTSA 32-04