Summer and the hot temperatures that go with it, have officially arrived. And if you think it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter in your car. Every 10 days, across the United States, a child dies while unattended in a hot car. It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and become deadly to a child inside. As summer temperatures rise, more kids are at risk – three children in the U.S. under the age of six have died in hot cars since Memorial Day, twelve since the beginning of the year. What may be surprising to know is eight (67 percent) of these twelve deaths occurred on days when temperatures were below 90 degrees.
Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14, with an average of 37 fatalities per year since 1998. AAA has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind parents and caregivers about the deadly consequences of leaving children in hot cars and to urge them to “look before you lock.” Heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
“In the summer heat a vehicle’s interior can reach lethal temperatures very quickly, essentially creating an oven, causing a child’s internal organs to shut down if left unattended inside,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Young children should never be left alone in a vehicle under any circumstances. Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat for children before you leave and lock the car. If you have to put a reminder post-it note on your dashboard, an alarm on your phone or a stuffed animal in the front seat to remember to take a child out of the car, do it.”
In the past two decades, 712 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke, hyperthermia, or other complications. Locally, 12 of those deaths occurred in New Jersey, 11 in Pennsylvania, and one in Delaware. Studies have shown about 51 percent of child hot car deaths in vehicles were caused by adults forgetting the children, and 29 percent of victims were playing in an unattended vehicle.
Some scary statistics:
- Vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of 39 children last year (up 63% from 24 deaths in 2015)
- To date, 12 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2017, three since Memorial Day weekend
- A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body
- A child can die of heat stroke on a 72-degree day
- On a 95-degree day a car can heat up to over 180-degrees
- The steering wheel can reach 159 degrees (temperature for cooking medium rare meat)
- The seats can reach 162 degrees (temperature for cooking ground beef)
- The dash can reach 181 degrees (temperature for cooking poultry)
- At 104-degrees internal organs start to shut down
AAA Mid-Atlantic Urges Motorists To ACT:
- A—Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, not even for a minute.
- C—Create electronic reminders or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car – for example, a cell phone, purse, wallet, briefcase or shoes. Always lock your car and never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.
- T—Take action and immediately call 9-1-1- if you notice a child unattended in a car.