When the temperatures are in the 90s, it's easy to recognize that the temperature inside your car can quickly rise. But cars can get dangerously hot, even when you don't feel it's "hot" outside.
So far this year, 21 children have died from heatstroke while being left inside a vehicle, 12 of them since Memorial Day. Four of those deaths occurred when the outside temperature was only in the 60s or 70s.
Since 1990, there have been roughly 900 children who died of heatstroke after being trapped in a hot car. 2018 saw a record high of 52 such instances, one death per week. Sadly, in more than half of these cases, the parents simply forgot they had left their child in the car.
How Fast Does Your Car Heat Up Inside?
According to Franciscan Health car seat specialist Sharilyn Wagner, RN, in just 10 minutes, a car can heat up 19 degrees. After 30 minutes, the temperature inside the car could increase to as much as 34 degrees higher than the temperatures outside, so in less than 30 minutes, your child or pet could die.
A Stanford study found 80 percent of the temperature rise in a vehicle occurred within the first half-hour - regardless of outside temperature.
The heat is effectively trapped by the automotive glass. Cracking the window does not decrease the maximum cabin temperature nor does it help to slow the heating process. Add in the fact that a child's body overheats 3-5 times faster than an adult, and we end up with an extremely high chance that leaving your child in your car leads to a fatality.
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How Can You Prevent Heatstroke In Vehicles?
A child's body is more succeptible to heat than an adult's. Wagner gave us the following tips to help you prevent the tragedy of heatstroke in vehicles:
- Pay careful attention to where your children are, especially when you're busy. Holidays, crises, schedule changes are when many of these tragedies tend to occur.
- Ask your babysitter, school or camp to call you if your child has not arrived as scheduled.
- Make sure your child can't get into your car on his or her own:
- Lock your vehicle, especially when parked in your garage or driveway.
- Your car keys should be out of reach for children.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911. If they seem hot or sick, try to get them out as quick as possible.
Additional Safety Tips
- Make a habit out of opening your car's back door every time you park. More than 80% of pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths happen at home or work.
- Leave something you will need that day – like a phone, wallet or ID badge – in the backseat that way you force yourself into making it a habit to check the back.
- Teach your child to honk the horn if they get locked in the car.
- Clearly announce who is helping each child out of your car. Miscommunication could lead to someone getting left behind.
- Go through the drive-through and pay for gas at the pump instead of going inside.
- Immediately check all floorboards and the trunk of your car if your child goes missing.
- Make sure to check the trunks and cabins of the cars around you too. Your child may have accidently climbed into a different car and locked the door without knowing how to unlock it.
Hopefully, by knowing the risks and following this advice, parents and caregivers can help prevent these tragic situations from occurring.
By Vivek Bhamidipati