June 7, 2016 - On average once every nine days an innocent young child tragically dies due to heatstroke in a vehicle. As part of National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention and Awareness Day, grieving parents sent a letter to Anthony Foxx, secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), and Dr. Mark Rosekind, administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), calling for immediate action on this pervasive problem.
The families insist on technology to help prevent parents and caregivers from unknowingly leaving children alone in vehicles and enduring a lifetime of pain, sorrow and grief. This cycle continues year after year as the auto industry refuses to add simple, existing driver-reminder technology to their vehicles, and Federal officials are not giving serious attention to Congressional directives to test available technologies.
The official start of summer, June 20, hasn't even arrived yet, and already this year nine children have died from heatstroke inside vehicles. That's a 225% increase compared to last year at the same time. "The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that this could never happen to them or that they are not capable of unknowingly leaving their child behind," says Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, the leading national nonprofit child safety organization working solely to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles.
"This can and does happen to the most loving, responsible and attentive parents; no one is immune," Fennell continued. Since 1990, more than 750 children have died in these preventable tragedies. An average of 37 children die needlessly every year from vehicular heatstroke.
The Peabody family lost their daughter, Maya to heatstroke in October, 2008. The Peabody's are a perfect example of devoted, caring parents. They have been foster parents all the way up to the therapeutic level, adoptive parents, advocates for the under privileged and have raised numerous children who weren't their own. "I never thought this could happen to my family. My husband is a loving, responsible and doting father who goes far beyond expectations when it comes to keeping our children safe. If this can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. Technology is needed to make sure that no other child has to suffer the way that our sweet Maya did. Our family will never be the same." said Dawn Peabody of Phoenix, AZ.
Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator also calls on Secretary Foxx to quickly initiate a rulemaking to require a safety standard that includes technology that alerts the driver if a child is inadvertently left behind. "Other lifesaving technologies to save children are now standard equipment on all vehicles. Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), trunk releases, rear view cameras in 2018, and safer power window switches are great examples where a deadly problem existed and a cost-effective solution was required by the government to make vehicles safer for children; and these advancements have saved countless lives."
"We encourage individuals in all communities to take action if you see a child alone in a vehicle. Try to find the driver of the vehicle, call 911 and if the child seems to be in imminent danger, break the window furthest away from the child to rescue them," stressed Amber Andreasen, director of KidsAndCars.org. The organization offers a small tool called
, an all-in-one seatbelt cutter and window breaker that fits on your keychain. The spring-loaded device is tapped on the corner of a car window and the glass is shattered. (
KidsAndCars.org and their safety partners will post facts and safety tips throughout the day about how child vehicular heatstroke can be prevented. They are calling on the public and media outlets to join in to support this national effort. Facebook, Twitter users and others can find photos, graphics and posts to share at
Through the "Look Before You Lock" educational campaign, the first of its kind, KidsAndCars.org has already distributed more than 750,000 safety information cards to birthing hospitals nationwide. This education campaign will continue, but at the same time technology is needed to prevent these tragedies.