Hot cars deadly
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.