Hot cars deadly

Record Observer - - Opinion -

As of July 31, the num­ber of chil­dren across the United States who have died of heat­stroke when left in hot cars was at a record high.

This year, 29 chil­dren have died of heat­stroke af­ter be­ing left in a ve­hi­cle. That’s more than at this point in pre­vi­ous years, ac­cord­ing to Jan Null, a cer­ti­fied con­sult­ing me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Depart­ment of Me­te­o­rol­ogy & Cli­mate Sci­ence at San Jose State Univer­sity. And 11 of those deaths were re­ported in the past week alone.

When a car is stopped, the tem­per­a­ture starts to rise, and in the first 10 min­utes, the av­er­age rise is 19 de­grees, Null says.

Even when out­side tem­per­a­tures are as low as 57 de­grees Fahren­heit, the tem­per­a­ture in­side a car can climb to 110, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“A child left in a hot car can die of heat stroke very quickly. But this tragedy can be pre­vented,” states the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics web­site.

Heat stroke can re­sult from the body not be­ing able to cool it­self ef­fec­tively. “A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s does,” the academy states, adding that when a child’s tem­per­a­ture reaches 104 de­grees in a hot car, his or her or­gans will be­gin to shut down.

Our lives are so full of dis­trac­tions th­ese days that it is fright­en­ingly easy to see how a child could be left in a car. The academy and the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fer a num­ber of sug­ges­tions to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing.

“Al­ways check the back seat and make sure all chil­dren are out of the car be­fore lock­ing it and walk­ing away,” the academy ad­vises. “Put your cell phone, bag, or purse in the back seat, so you check the back seat when you ar­rive at your des­ti­na­tion.”

The NHTSA also sug­gests keep­ing a stuffed an­i­mal or other chil­dren’s item in the car seat when your child is not sit­ting in it. Move the item to the front seat when your child is rid­ing in the back. That plush toy rid­ing shot­gun will serve as a vis­ual re­minder that you have an­other pas­sen­ger in the back, the NHTSA states.

Changes in rou­tine are a big risk fac­tor. “Be ex­tra alert when there is a change in your rou­tine, like when some­one else is driv­ing your child or you take a dif­fer­ent route to work or child care,” the academy states. “If some­one else is driv­ing your child, or your daily rou­tine has been al­tered, al­ways check to make sure your child has ar­rived safely,” the NHTSA adds.

If you see a child in a hot car, call 911 im­me­di­ately. The academy rec­om­mends tak­ing ac­tion to get the child out of the car if he or she is un­re­spon­sive or in pain. If the child is re­spon­sive, the academy states that you should stay with him or her un­til help ar­rives and have some­one search for the driver in the mean­time.

Keep in mind that hot cars kill pets too. “Leav­ing pets locked in cars is never safe. But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly,” states the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States.

If you come across a pet locked in a hot car, take down the ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion and go to a nearby busi­ness. Ask the man­ager, se­cu­rity guard or other em­ploy­ees to make an an­nounce­ment. If no one can lo­cate the owner, the Hu­mane So­ci­ety sug­gests con­tact­ing po­lice or an­i­mal con­trol.

Please be mind­ful of the dan­gers a hot car poses. By tak­ing ex­tra pre­cau­tions, se­ri­ous tragedy can be averted.

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