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Safety Around Vehicles

Non-traffic related vehicle incidents are incidents that occur in places other than a public highway, street, or road. These incidents occur in driveways, parking lots, or off-road locations and may involve bicyclists, pedestrians, non-moving vehicles, or vehicles backing up.

During July 2000–June, 2001, an estimated 78 fatal injuries occurred among children less than 14 years who were left unattended in or around motor vehicles that were not in traffic. Only 14 states have laws prohibiting leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Penalties for leaving children range from noncriminal traffic infractions to second-degree manslaughter charges if the child dies as a result from being left alone in the car.

Backover Injuries

From 2001 to 2003 approximately 7,475 children (2,492 per year) aged 1 to14 years were treated for nonfatal motor vehicle backover injuries in emergency departments.

  • Nearly 50 percent of the children injured in backover incidents were 1 to 4 years old; 55 percent were males.
  • Most backovers occurred at either home or in driveways or parking lots; 47 percent occurred at home, and 40 percent occurred in driveways or parking lots.

Prevention Tips

  • Walk all the way around your parked vehicle to check for children, pets or toys before getting in the car and starting the engine. Use a Spot the Tot window sticker as a reminder to walk around the vehicle before every trip.
  • Make sure young children are always accompanied by an adult when getting in and out of a vehicle.
  • Identify and use safe play areas for children away from parked or moving vehicles & designate a safe spot for children to go when nearby vehicles are about to move. Firmly hold the hand of each child when walking near moving vehicles and when in driveways, parking lots or on sidewalks.

Heat-Related Incidents

Believe it or not, routines and distractions have caused people to mistakenly leave children behind in cars. There are also people who thought their child would be okay "for just a few minutes." Leaving a child alone in a vehicle for any amount of time can have fatal consequences

Studies show that a vehicle can rapidly reach fatal temperatures in just minutes. A child's body temperature warms at a rate of 3 to 5 times faster than an adults because their thermoregulatory systems are not as efficient as an adult's.

Between 1998-2010, more than 494 hyperthermia deaths have been reported as a result of a child being left in a hot vehicle. 2010 was the deadliest year ever for children left in vehicles and Texas led in the number of deaths.

  • Each year, an average of 36 children die from hyperthermia after being left unattended in a vehicle. Last year was the highest number of heat related vehicular deaths (49) since records have been kept in 1998.
  • Children that have died from vehicular heat stroke in the United States (1998-2010) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years with more than have of the deaths being under 2 years.
  • A child’s body does not have the same internal temperature control as an adult’s, and can warm three times to five times faster. Heatstroke occurs when the body core temperature reaches 104 degrees F, and a body core temperature of 107 degrees F is usually fatal.
  • Within 10 minutes of being closed, in the daytime, the inside temperature of a vehicle will be almost 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, after 30 minutes the vehicle’s temperature will be 34 degrees hotter.

Prevention Tips

  • Never leave your child alone in a car...not even for a minute!
  • When arriving at your destination, always check the back seat.
  • Place your purse, briefcase, or cell phone in the back seat so that you will be triggered to look there before leaving your vehicle.
  • Always lock your car and store keys out of a child's reach.
  • Place one of your child's toys or diaper bag in the front seat as a reminder that they are with you.
  • Have caregivers call you at a set time if you have not dropped off your child. Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off children.
  • Teach children to never play in, on or around cars.
  • Call 9-1-1 if you ever see a child left alone in a car.

Trunk Entrapment

For many kids, a car trunk looks like a fun place to play or hide. Tragically, many families have discovered that children can get in but they cannot always get out. Children can access trunks in several ways, even without having the vehicle's keys. Most cars have a lever or button, located near the driver's seat, that pops the trunk open, while other cars have fold-down seats or a "pass through" that enables children to climb into the trunk from the back seat.

Nine incidents of fatal car trunk entrapments were reported from 1987 to 1998, resulting in 19 deaths to children less than 7 years of age. All of the incidents occurred in hot weather.

Prevention Tips

  • Teach children that trunks are only to transport cargo and are not safe places to play
  • Show children how to locate and use the emergency trunk release found in newer vehicles
  • If a child is missing, check vehicle trunks immediately