LOUISIANA HIGHWAY SAFETY COMMISSION -- Since 1998, at least 619 children across the United States have died of heatstroke after being left unattended in vehicles that become overheated. To help prevent such deaths and injuries, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has joined a national campaign to raise awareness of the issue.
This summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is implementing its radio and internet "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock," campaign to reach parents, caregivers, grandparents and others about the issue. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is participating in the effort.
"The inside temperature of a car can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window partially open," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "Everyone, not just those driving with children in their vehicles, can play a role in saving kids from heatstroke deaths and injuries."
With temperatures in Louisiana reaching into the 90s during many summer days, the risk of heatstroke in vehicles greatly increases. However, a vehicle can reach dangerous temperatures even on cooler days.
Many of the heatstroke deaths and injuries result when adults leave a vehicle, forgetting that a small child is in the rear seat. Additionally, some children die after entering a parked vehicle through an unlocked door or open trunk and are unable to get out.
Child safety advocates recommend that drivers place something they'll need at their final destination, such as a cell phone, purse or briefcase, next to a child to avoid forgetting the child is in the rear seat. This is especially important when the adult is not following his or her normal routine.
However, safety experts urge everyone to be aware that children left unattended in a vehicle can be in danger of suffering a heatstroke even when outside temperatures are moderate. If you see a young child in a parked car for more than five minutes, consider taking these actions:
• First make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
• If the child appears okay, attempt to locate the parents.
• If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
• If the child is not responsive and appears in great distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child.
• If the child is in distress from the heat, get him or her out of the car as quickly as possible and begin a rapid cooling process.
Louisiana law provides for fines and possible jail time of up to six months for persons who leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Penalties increase for subsequent offenses. State law describes "unattended" as "a child who has been left in a motor vehicle when the driver or operator of the vehicle is more than 10 feet from the vehicle and unable to continuously observe the child."