By Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
The Montana Children’s Trust Fund’s (MCTF) “Not Even for a Minute” campaign encourages parents and caregivers to never leave children unattended in or around vehicles. Leaving a child alone in a vehicle for even a short amount of time can lead to heatstroke, dehydration, overheating, hyperthermia, injury, abduction and even death.
“This is an issue that needs the close attention of all parents and caregivers to prevent these tragedies form occurring,” said Not Even for a Minute Campaign organizer Melissa Lavinder of MCTF.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since 1998, a total of 819 U.S. children have died of heatstroke in hot cars – 24 this year to date. On average, one child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle nearly every 10 days in the United States. A total of 52 children died from heatstroke in 2018.
“Temperatures in cars skyrocket quickly, and if left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s body temperature may increase three to five times as quickly as an adult’s, 80% of the increase occurring in the first 10 minutes,” Lavinder said.
Cracking windows, even to eight inches, has minimal effect on the temperature inside a car and the vehicle can reach very dangerous temperatures within just a few minutes. On a 73-degree day, the internal vehicle temperature can reach 90°F within 10 minutes and nearly 100°F within 20 minutes.
In these extreme conditions, children can die or suffer a permanent injury. In fact, children have died from heatstroke in cars at temperatures as low as 60 degrees. 88% of children who have died from vehicular heatstroke are age three or younger. On average, a child dies every 10 days from heatstroke in a vehicle.
“Believe it or not, routines and distractions have caused people to mistakenly leave children in cars,” Lavinder said.
In order to prevent these car accidents, follow these safety tips.
•Make your child as visible as possible.
•Place your purse, briefcase, or whatever is to be carried from the car in the back seat with your child.
•Set a reminder on your cell phone or computer to be sure you dropped your child off at day care.
•Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
•Use drive-through convenience provided by banks, restaurants, and other businesses.
•Pay at the gas pump.
Prevent trunk entrapment and other accidents.
•Teach your children the dangers of a car and let them know that it is not a toy or playground.
Always lock your car, even at home, and remind your friends and neighbors to do the same.
•Put your keys in a safe and secure place out of children’s reach.
•Check vehicles and car trunks immediately when a child is missing.
If you see an unattended child in a car, dial 911 immediately and follow the instructions that emergency personnel provide. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
If you would like to be involved in the Not Even for a Minute Campaign, contact Melissa Lavinder at 406-444-3002 or Amber Barnes at 406-444-5915 for materials to share and distribute.