Op-ed: National Heatstroke Awareness Day

In the past month, two children with connections to Utah tragically died after being left alone in vehicles. A two-year-old from Idaho was left in a car in St. George for hours and in Las Vegas, a three-year-old from Fillmore was left for just an hour.

Unfortunately, this kind of tragedy happens far too often. In Utah, nine children have died from heatstroke after being left inside vehicles since 1998 to 2016. According to NoHeatStroke.org, so far, this year, 29 (updated July 31) children have died in the U.S. due to vehicular heatstroke. And since 1998, 726 children left in vehicles have died from heatstroke.

These numbers are far too high. We all say that we would never let this happen to our children, but sadly, so did many of the parents who have lost children. Many do not understand a child’s body temperature can rise as much as five times faster than an adult’s. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches around 104 degrees and death can follow in a child when this temperature reaches 107 degrees.

In 2011, the Utah State Legislature passed S.B. 124, Leaving a Child Unattended in a Motor Vehicle, which made it illegal to leave a child under the age of 9 unattended in a motor vehicle. The purpose of this law is to help raise awareness of how serious and dangerous it is to leave a young child alone in a vehicle.

As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s National Heatstroke Awareness Day approaches on July 31, this is a reminder that we all must remain vigilant in preventing these heartbreaking deaths. There are things each of us can to do prevent these tragic occurrences. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids and Cars, National Safety Council and Safe Kids Worldwide provide tips and resources to help prevent these tragedies.

Safety tips include:

  • Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute, even if it is parked in the shade or has open, cracked or tinted windows.
  • Always lock the vehicle’s doors, and keep the keys out of reach of children.
  • Place a stuffed animal or another toy in the child’s car seat, and when the child is placed in the seat, move the toy in front with the driver.
  • Place an item, such as a cell phone or bag, in the back seat, as a reminder.
  • Set a calendar reminder on your electronic device for daycare drop offs.
  • Have a plan in place with your childcare provider to contact you if your child does not show up for school by a certain time.
  • Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car – no matter the outside temperature.

There are also technological solutions that can ensure children are not forgotten in vehicles. Several car seat models will notify you if there is a child in the seat when the vehicle is turned off. Some vehicle manufacturers also have technology that will automatically notify you when the vehicle shuts off if the back door was opened or closed before it starts or while it’s running.

We need to stop saying “I would never do that” and start taking everyday precautions to end these preventable deaths.

Signed by:

Rep. Norm Thurston

Rep. Carl R. Albrecht

Rep. Patrice Arent

Rep. Walt Brooks

Rep. Kim Coleman

Rep Bruce Cutler

Rep. Brad Daw

Rep. Jim Dunnigan

Rep. Steve Eliason

Rep. Justin Fawson

Rep. Gage Froerer

Rep. Adam Gardiner

Rep. Craig Hall

Rep. Stephen Handy

Speaker of the House Greg Hughes

Rep. John Knotwell, Assistant Majority Whip

Rep. Cory Maloy

Rep. Kelly Miles

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

Rep. Lee Perry

Rep. Susan Pulsipher

Rep. Tim Quinn

Rep. Paul Ray

Rep. Douglas Sagers

Rep. Scott Sandall

Rep. Lowry Snow

Rep. Robert Spendlove

Rep. Jon Stanard

Rep. Christine Watkins

Rep. John Westwood

Rep. Logan Wilde

Rep. Brad Wilson, Majority Leader

Rep. Mike Winder

 

This op-ed was originally posted by Deseret News on July 27, 2017

 

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