“Look Before You Leave” Hang Tag Provides Visual Reminder to Never Leave Individuals Alone in a Vehicle

With the summer heat upon us, the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (Justice Center) is raising awareness of the risk of heatstroke and other serious injuries to individuals with special needs and disabilities who are left alone in a hot vehicle.

The Justice Center has produced a Spotlight on Prevention toolkit which provides safety tips that can be used by provider agency drivers, transport aides, other personnel and the public to prevent an accidental tragedy from occurring. The toolkit includes an eye-catching hang tag to remind drivers to always “look before you leave” a vehicle to make sure no one is left unattended.

“During the summer months, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to dangerous levels in just a few minutes. Staff must be extra vigilant to ensure that occupants with special needs, who due to their disability may be at greater risk, are not forgotten,” said Special Prosecutor/Inspector

General Patricia E. Gunning. “We encourage provider agencies to incorporate the tips contained in this toolkit into their safety plans and train staff to use the hang tags to try to minimize risk and prevent injury.”

In recent weeks, the Justice Center’s 24/7 toll-free hotline for reporting allegations of abuse and neglect has received a number of reports of individuals with special needs being left unaccompanied in vehicles. Each incident is being investigated and individual actions will be taken as appropriate. While the individuals in the most recent allegations are not reported to have suffered serious injury, with higher temperatures, the risk of injury increases.

The Justice Center not only works to seek justice for individuals receiving services who have been victimized -- the agency also develops innovative strategies to prevent abuse or neglect from happening. Spotlight on Prevention is one of the prevention initiatives of the Office of the Special Prosecutor/Inspector General.

Heatstroke Safety Tips for the Public

If you see someone in a closed vehicle -- do something:

  • Do not assume that an adult in a closed vehicle has the ability to exit without help.
  • Do not assume that an individual in a vehicle can communicate with you.
  • Do not assume that individuals who appear sleeping are not in distress.
  • Do not hesitate to call 911 for help. (Take down the vehicle’s license-plate number.)
  • Do not worry about whether the person is left intentionally in a closed vehicle or unintentionally- either can have a tragic outcome.

Heatstroke Safety Tips for Provider Agency Drivers and Staff

  • Never leave a person unattended in a vehicle.
  • Always “look before you leave” to make sure no one has been left behind.
  • Call 911 if you see a person alone in a vehicle.
  • Contact the Justice Center at [email protected] if you have questions.

The Spotlight on Prevention toolkit includes:

The content of the toolkit is the result of an analysis of incidents reported to the Justice Center. Systemic failures that either contribute to dangerous events or, if not corrected, are likely to lead to such events in the future are identified. The toolkit provides information about the risk of such failures, the lessons learned, and simple, common-sense practices to help individuals, family members, staff members and provider agencies take a proactive approach to creating safe, supportive environments for people who receive services.

To learn more about the Justice Center’s prevention efforts, visit the Abuse Prevention Resource Center at: http://www.justicecenter.ny.gov/spotlight-prevention/home

About the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs

Established by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs is dedicated to supporting and protecting people with special needs and disabilities.

The Justice Center serves as a law enforcement agency which seeks to ensure that individuals who receive services from a facility or provider that is operated, licensed or certified by six state agencies, are protected from abuse, neglect and mistreatment. Assessing risks to the health and safety of individuals receiving services, and supporting commensurate action to prevent potential abuse and neglect are critical components of the agency’s independent oversight role.

Through its advocacy-related services, the Justice Center also provides information, technical assistance and training to support and empower individuals with disabilities of all ages, in all settings.