When It’s Hot – “Look Before You Lock”

Portrait of an African American woman sitting in car with small

Today is “National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention Day,” a day to focus on preventing childhood deaths in hot cars and other vehicles.  A child dies about once every nine days due to this danger.  In 2016 alone ten children already have died from heatstroke inside vehicles.

Historically, traffic-related death rates are highest for black children[1] but this vehicle-related danger impacts our children too.  No one is immune and this can happen to the most loving, attentive, and responsible parents.  Dr. Norman Collins, Sr., a minister, was the proud grandfather of three-month old Norman Lee Van Collins III, nicknamed “Bishop” in honor of Norman Sr.  BishopTragedy struck the Collins family one day in May of 2011.  On that Sunday, Bishop’s father, Norman Collins, Jr., prepared for church services by removing music equipment from his car and taking it into the church.  Norman Jr. asked another church member to bring Bishop in from the car and take him to the nursery.  Apparently the church member did not hear this request.  At the end of services two and a half hours later, after the infant could not be located in the church nursery, his parents and other church members found him still buckled in his carseat in 90+ degree weather.  Little Bishop was unresponsive and could not be saved.  Norman Sr. received the tragic news from a church friend.  He says about that day, “The news of Bishop’s passing pierced and pained my heart as I had never experienced before or since – forever changing the trajectory of my life’s journey.”

Technology already exists to help prevent parents from leaving children alone in vehicles and enduring this recurring nightmare.  In order to better prevent these tragedies Living Well Black joins parents of victims and the organization KidsAndCars in calling on Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Dr. Mark Rosenkind, Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to act to find solutions to this preventable danger.

As a parent or caregiver, here is what you can do to prevent these horrible deaths:[2]

  • Never leave children alone in or around cars.
  • “Look Before You Lock” – Make a habit of always opening the back door and checking the back seat before leaving our vehicle to ensure that no child is left behind;
  • Be very careful around holidays, during a change in schedule, or whenever a different parent or caregiver takes the child to childcare — many tragedies occur in confusion happening during times like these.
  • Put something you will need in the back seat, like a cellphone, handbag, or briefcase.
  • Put a large stuffed animal in the back seat.  When you place your child in the back, move the stuffed animal to the front seat — within your sight.
  • Set up a policy with daycare about drop off.  Ensure that daycare providers know that you will call to let them know if our child will be absent on any day.  Ask your childcare provider to contact you if your child does not arrive as expected.
  • Keep all vehicles locked and car keys and garage remotes where your child cannot get to them.
  • If your child is missing immediately check the car first — including inside the car and all compartments like trunks.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle call 911 immediately.  If the child seems ill or hot remove them from the vehicle as soon as possible.
  • Where possible, pay for gas at the pump and use drive-through services for restaurants, pharmacies, etc.

Let’s all work together to end these senseless and heartbreaking injuries and deaths.

–Janell Mayo Duncan



COPYRIGHT©2016 by Living Well Black, Inc.



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