HARTFORD - Leaving a child alone in a car is unforgivable abuse, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday at the launch of a public awareness campaign called "Look Before You Lock."
Blumenthal emphasized the fact that children dying in cars is preventable and it is the obligation of parents to be mindful.
"Look before you lock has to be the mantra," Blumenthal said. "It's more than just a slogan; it's a way to keep babies alive."
Blumenthal was joined by Sen. Chris Murphy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and other state officials and medical experts at Connecticut Children's Medical Center to promote the campaign to avoid leaving children unattended in hot cars.
The Connecticut Children's Injury Prevention Center received a $100,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Transportation to launch this campaign. It has formed a coalition with the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital and Safe Kids Connecticut to raise awareness through posters, bumper stickers, radio ads, billboards and other media.
Funding for the campaign is facilitated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"I am proud that we are launching this campaign," Murphy said, "but mad that we need to do it in the first place."
That need can be seen in the 20 child deaths by heatstroke that have occurred in the US this year as of August 1, according to the child advocacy group KidsAndCars.org.
It's always been a problem for years, said Dr. Brendan Campbell, medical director of pediatric trauma at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Campbell said the problem is that unlike buckling your seatbelt, checking for a child in the backseat has not become a part of general safety awareness.
Marc Auerbach, associate medical director of pediatric trauma at Yale-New Haven Hospital, agreed, saying checking for your child should become a habit.
"It's more challenging with all the distractions we have today, but you need to try to focus on the present and you need to double and triple check," Auerbach said.
Auerbach explained that young children are particularly susceptible to heatstroke because they have a decreased ability to sweat and a greater surface area relative to their total weight, which makes their body temperature rise faster than that of an adult.
The temperature in a car also rises faster than the temperature outside, said Meg McCabe, coordinator for Safe Kids Connecticut. The campaign hopes to bring awareness to this fact by displaying the outside temperature versus the temperature inside a vehicle on its billboards, she added.
McCabe said an easy way to avoid forgetting your child in the car is to place your purse, lunch or cell phone in the backseat, so that you'll remember to take both when you get out.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman even suggested leaving your left shoe next to your child.
"We don't want any more kids to die ever in this state," Murphy said.