Written by Linda Smith, of The Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Making safety a part of your daily routine can be the difference between life and death for a child in your care.

Fifteen children have already died in 2012 due to heat strokes after being left unattended in vehicles.  One of the most recent deaths took place this past week when a child fell asleep and was left in a child care van.  Leaving a child inside a vehicle with the windows rolled up — even a few minutes – can have deadly consequences.

A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that in just one hour, vehicle temperatures can reach up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit even though it’s only 72 degrees outside. That same study reported that cars with cracked windows can still result in temperatures rising 19 degrees in just 10 minutes.

These deaths are preventable and we at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) are taking action to remind our child care and Head Start providers who care for children every day about simple steps to prevent terrible tragedies. ACF is joining the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids USA to launch the “Look before You Lock” Campaign.

We are raising awareness and reminding our child care and Head Start providers and the general public to:

  • Make it part of your every day routine to account for all children in your care;
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle—even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on;
  • Always make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away;
  • Set up backup systems to double check that no child is left in the vehicle.
  • Ask the child care provider to call parent if the child does not show up for care as expected;
  • Do things that serve as a reminder a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle, writing a note or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver’s view to indicate a child is in the car seat.

Remember, leaving a child alone in a vehicle, even for just 10 minutes, can cause heatstroke and the child’s death.  Don’t let this preventable death happen.

To see Linda’s original blog, click here.