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…
The consultant who tracks hot car deaths around the country tells Susan Scutti that the numbers are probably higher than the media reports. By using remote thermometers, he found that the rise in temperature inside of a car left in the sun happens quickly — about 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes:
This effect is almost identical if you start at 70 degrees or 90 degrees, Null said. If you start at 70, in 10 minutes, it will be 89°F. If you start at 90, in 10 minutes, it will be 109°F.
“You get to these very high temperatures very rapidly,” he said. “How hot it got was one surprise,” but how fast it got to a “deadly temperature” was even more unexpected.
Medical professionals generally use 104-degree body temperature to measure heatstroke, and death can occur when body temperatures reach the 107-degree range, Null noted.
“Even on an 80-degree day — which is a mild summer day for most of the country — you’re at 109 in 20 minutes” inside a car, he said.
Even when outside temperatures are as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature within a car can climb to 110, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration…
As we’ve learned many times before, kids aren’t little adults. They are much more vulnerable to extremes of heat and hydration than adults:
The central nervous system is not fully developed in children, and this makes their bodies less able to cope with temperature changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Children have difficulty remaining hydrated for this same reason. And a child’s core body temperature can rise five times more quickly than that of an adult.
Should we just accept that some adults will be clueless and leave their children alone in a hot car to suffer and die, or should we try to save these kids from their parents’ or caretakers’ neglect? (It should be noted that almost 30% of children aren’t simply left or forgotten in hot cars; in their cases, they gain access to the car’s hot interior all by themselves.) 729 children have died unnecessarily in hot cars in the U.S. since 1998 so it shouldn’t be surprising that legislation is right around the corner:
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Al Franken introduced legislation Monday requiring all new passenger vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system. The technology alerts drivers if a child is left in the back seat once the car is turned off.
The Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seat Act is intended to prevent heatstroke deaths when children are left alone in vehicles.
Along with requirements for new cars, the HOT CARS Act would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to study options for retrofitting older vehicles with a visual and auditory alert system.
The American Veterinary Medical Association reminds us that children aren’t the only loved ones being left in hot cars:
Every year, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles. We’ve heard the excuses: “Oh, it will just be a few minutes while I go into the store,”or “But I cracked the windows…” These excuses don’t amount to much if your pet becomes seriously ill or dies from being left in a vehicle.
Let’s see if we can pay better attention to what we are doing and to our surroundings, and prevent these inexcusable accidents from occurring needlessly.