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Safe Kids USA to Combat Child Deaths from Heat Stroke


Record number of 2010 Deaths Demands Expanded Efforts: “Near Misses:” Show Widespread Problem

Austin, Texas – Safe Kids USA, the General Motors Foundation and their partners today launched an expanded national education and awareness program to help reduce the number of child deaths in cars and trucks caused by heat stroke. Sadly, just one week ago the first child vehicular death of 2011 occurred when a mother accidentally left her child in the car during a long work day. Last year 49 children in the U.S., from ages two months to six years, died from heat stroke while unattended in vehicles – the worst year on record.

“These tragedies can happen anywhere at any time as child deaths in cars and trucks from heat stroke have occurred as early as February and when the outside temperature was as low as 57 degrees F,” said John Formisano, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “That’s why our coalitions are mobilizing now to quickly educate parents in their communities. Our coalition network across the U.S. will help alert the 250 million vehicle owners to the dangers because everyone needs to understand this critical issue and how to ensure the safety of children.”

Through the Safe Kids USA network of 600 coalitions and chapters, the “Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car” program will unite and mobilize a wide range of partners – police and fire, hospitals, government agencies, child care centers, businesses and others – to share with parents and other caregivers prevention messages to address the dangers to children in vehicles. The program will include an advertising campaign of billboards, print ads, web banners and radio announcements as well as tip sheets. The materials will be available in both English and Spanish.

“We’re launching this program in Austin because the statistics for Texas are alarming,” said Major Ron Joy, Highway Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety. “Though Texas has a law addressing children unintentionally left in a car, Texas had 13 deaths in 2010, more deaths than any other state in the nation. In fact, one in every seven child deaths for heat stroke occurred in Texas since recordkeeping began. Together, we must work to help eliminate these tragedies.”

“We conservatively estimate there are thousands of near-misses every month,” added Formisano. “There are 250,000 confirmed cases of children trapped in vehicles. And this count does not include the thousands of children rescued by fire and police departments.”

Formisano said, “Advanced technologies may help prevent child heat stroke deaths in vehicles and Safe Kids urges child seat manufacturers and automakers to continue research and development of these technologies. However, the near-term emphasis must remain on education and awareness as it will take years for technology solutions to become widespread.”

“There is no greater tragedy for a parent or caregiver than to suffer the loss of a child due to hyperthermia,” said David Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “It’s vital that children never be left unattended in a vehicle and keys are kept out of a child’s reach. We urge all parents and caregivers to make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away. If a child is missing, check the vehicle, including the trunk.”

Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car is a key component of Safe Kids Buckle Up, the comprehensive Safe Kids USA child passenger safety program sponsored by the General Motors Foundation. “Providing the support necessary for the Safe Kids coalitions and community partners to effectively educate families on how they can avoid these tragic and needless deaths is an important priority for the Foundation,” said John Montford, chairman, General Motors Foundation. “We commend these dedicated teams and their tireless, year-round efforts to keep children safe in an around cars.”

Here’s what parents and caregivers need to know and why.

* Lock cars and trucks. Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle. These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicle doors to help assure that kids don’t enter the vehicles and become trapped.
* Create reminders. Many child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child. To help prevent these tragedies parents can:
o Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings.
o Set the alarm on your cell phone/smartphone as a reminder to you to drop your child off at day care.
o Set your computer calendar program to ask, “Did you drop off at daycare today?” Establish a plan with your daycare that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time that you will be called within a few minutes. Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for daycare.
* Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble. The body temperature of children rises 3 - 5 times faster than adults, and as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke. Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.

For more information on preventing child heat stroke deaths, please visit and


About Safe Kids USA
Safe Kids USA is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and 19 member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. For more information visit

About the General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids Buckle Up
Beginning in 1997, General Motors and the GM Foundation have served as Safe Kids Buckle Up’s exclusive funding source and helped build the program into a multifaceted national initiative, bringing motor vehicle safety messages to children and families through community and dealer partnerships. To date, more than 21 million people have been exposed to Safe Kids Buckle Up events and community outreach efforts. Certified child passenger safety technicians working through Safe Kids coalitions have examined 1.28 million child safety seats at 65,399 events and the program has donated 457,134 seats to families in need.

Since its inception in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to deserving American charities, educational organizations and to disaster relief efforts worldwide. The GM Foundation focuses on supporting Education, Health and Human Services, Environment and Energy and Community Development initiatives, mainly in the communities where GM operates. For more information, visit


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