Child deaths in cars prompt new federal safety campaign

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During the first week of this month, eight children died after adults or other caregivers left them alone in cars. It was the deadliest single week on record for these fatalities, and 23 children across the country have died in similar circumstances this year.

That's why federal officials offer the following tips to keep kids safe. are sounding an alarm to try and avert future hot-weather fatalities.

*Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.

*Always check the back seat before locking the car and walking away.

*Teach kids that the car is not a place to play.

*Place a large stuffed animal in childrens' car seats when they're not in the vehicle, and place it alongside you in the passenger seat when the kids are riding along. The plush toy becomes a visual reminder.

Federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood and health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius helped launch a “Look Before You Lock” campaign to warn parents and other caretakers about the danger of leaving kids in cars or letting them play there when nobody’s looking.

Within a very short time, the temperature inside a closed vehicle can exceed 110 degrees, even when the outdoor temperature is in the 60s. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that heat-related incidents are the leading cause of death after collisions among children younger than 14.

None of the fatal episodes in early August took place in California. But the nationwide safety initiative to prevent what officials call “accidental tragedies” coincides with some of the year’s hottest temperatures throughout the Southland.

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