Child Heatstroke Danger Awareness Remains High, Survey Finds, as Risky Hot Weather Season Nears; Deaths Were Down 30 percent in 2014
16 Apr, 2015, 02:45 ET
WASHINGTON, April 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the approach of the warm weather months that present a major risk for young children dying in hot cars, a new national survey shows that parent and caregiver awareness of the dangers continues to be high and the increased knowledge has led to positive changes in behavior.
Since 1998, 636 children have died from heatstroke in vehicles when left alone by adults or after gaining access to an unattended vehicle. The majority, 53 percent, were forgotten by an adult.
The survey, conducted March 12-17 by Public Opinion Strategies, found that 85 percent of the 300 parent and caregiver respondents (who transport children six years old and younger in their vehicles) had seen, read or heard "a lot" or "some" about this child safety issue. This is the same total as a similar survey conducted last August and a significant increase from the 69 percent found in a February 2014 benchmark survey.
Awareness is up among parents and in all age groups. When compared to last year, the boost was highest among fathers, from 60 to 83 percent, a 38 percent rise. For mothers, the awareness rate is 86 percent, up from 74 percent. The best informed age group is those 45 years and older (91 percent). Those 18-34 years old are the least aware (83 percent).
Most importantly, the increased knowledge about child vehicle heatstroke deaths contributed to a majority now saying they would be less likely to leave their child alone in a vehicle, and nearly eight of ten reported they would take action - such as calling 911 -- if they see another child alone in a car.
"There's definitely been a shift in awareness and attitudes on this issue," said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. "We're seeing that parents have a greater awareness of the dangers and that's translating into reported behavior change that can save lives."
Changes in behavior helped to reduce the 2014 fatality total to 30 children, the second lowest since record keeping began in 1998. This was a more than 30 percent reduction from 44 young child deaths in 2013. The annual death rate average since 1998 is 37.
"In 2012, we launched our Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock public awareness campaign, and these survey results, as well as the reduction in child heatstroke deaths from a year ago, are indicative of how continued public education can really make a difference," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Mark Rosekind, "However, one child heatstroke death is too many, and these incidents are 100 percent preventable. Our work won't stop until all parents and caregivers are aware of and take action to avoid the dangers associated with leaving children in hot vehicles."
Other key survey findings include:
- 37 percent of respondents have seen an unattended child in a car in the past year.
- A majority of parents, 55 percent, continue to say that they take specific steps to make sure they do not leave their children unattended in a vehicle by mistake. These actions include always checking the back seat and child safety seat, intentionally leaving a purse or wallet in the back seat when the child is in the car and doing a headcount.
"This research demonstrates that when communities, organizations and government agencies join together, we can save lives," said Kate Carr, President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "The effort has been extensive, including strong commitment from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state highway safety offices, the Auto Alliance, Safe Kids coalitions across the country and local safety advocates. We are all committed to continuing to work until there are zero deaths from heatstroke in vehicles."
Another measurement of a change in public awareness of this preventable cause of child deaths is that significantly more parents and caregivers trust the key facts about the potential dangers for young children compared to the February 2014 benchmark survey. For example:
- 84 percent now understand that the inside of a car can heat up 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, an eight percentage point increase;
- 83 percent of adults understand that young children are at greater risk for heatstroke as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults, compared to 72 percent in February; and
- 87 percent understand the danger is greatest for the youngest children, believing that that nearly nine in 10 children who have died from heatstroke are age three and under, compared to 73 percent in February.
"It is so important that we keep awareness about this issue high, so that parents continue to think about and take action to prevent children being left alone in hot cars," said meteorologist Jan Null of San Jose State University, who has helped raise awareness of these tragedies and maintains the most complete data on the subject. "We have an opportunity to create meaningful momentum this year. When parents make it a rule to never leave their child alone in a vehicle, when they take steps to reduce the risk of forgetting their child, and when they recognize the importance of taking action when they see another child in danger, we can avoid the tragedy of losing children to heatstroke."
This survey was sponsored by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
About Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car: www.safekids.org/preventing-heatstroke
About Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock: www.safercar.gov/parents/InandAroundtheCar/heatstroke.htm
About It's That Serious: www.itsthatserious.org
SOURCE Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
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