The Hot Car Nightmare

Each year, an average of 29 children die as a result of being left in a hot car. So far in 2018, seven children have died in America, proving that it doesn’t need to be super-hot outside for vehicles to become a dangerous oven. Aside from crashes, heatstroke is the second leading cause of death in vehicles for children under the age of 14.

A new study published last week found that a car can reach lethal heat levels in under an hour – even when parked in the shade. Internal car temperature rises an average of 19 degrees every 10 minutes, creating a dangerous heat level in a short amount of time. The study found that a car parked in the sun on a summer day can reach an internal temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit with a dashboard temperature of more than 165 degrees Fahrenheit in just under an hour. We have all had moments of going back to our car on a hot day and barely being able to touch the door handles or steering wheel. Imagine how dangerous that temperature would be to a child strapped in a car seat.

If left in a hot car, a child’s internal body temperature can reach 104 degrees, even if the car is parked in the shade. At this temperature, the body’s vital organs and bodily functions are affected, and death is likely. Children are particularly vulnerable to heat-related death because they are often either asleep in the backseat or unable to get out of a hot car on their own. And extreme heat affects children more than adults because their central nervous system is not fully developed, making them less capable of coping with rapid temperature changes. In fact, a child’s core body temperature can rise five times faster than that of an adult, causing heat stroke and other heat-related complications in a short amount of time.

The death of children in hot cars are tragic, unfortunate mistakes, but they are preventable. To help assist parents, automakers have begun installing alert technology to remind drivers that they might be leaving a child or pet behind and lawmakers have introduced legislation requiring automakers to include this technology as a standard safety feature like backup cameras.

Currently, 2018 GMC and Nissan models come equipped with this technology and there are products that consumers can purchase that can also alert them if a child is in the backseat. The goal is to raise awareness of hot car death and dispel the myth that this would never happen to you or someone you know.

According to Arizona State University Psychologist Gene Brewer, “functionally, there is no difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car.” In more than 50% of hot car deaths, a loving parent, distracted by lack of sleep or a change in routine, unknowingly leaves their child alone in a parked car. Lapses in memory are real and powerful and can happen to anyone at any time, often resulting in the tragic death of an innocent child.

This summer, we ask you to take steps to help prevent hot car deaths and never leave a child unattended in a car.