Hot Car Deaths Can Happen in One Hour

child looking out through rear window in car

New Study Shows That Vehicles Can Reach Deadly Temperatures in 60 Minutes

Now that summer is approaching and the weather is getting warmer, it is extremely important for parents everywhere to learn more about the risks of hot car deaths and to take steps to prevent fatal child injuries. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of California, San Diego, hot car deaths can happen much more quickly than some parents might think. Indeed, the research shows that motor vehicles can reach deadly temperatures in only 60 minutes. That is the amount of time it takes for the inside of many cars to reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which is also well beyond the temperature at which a child inside a car can die from a heat injury. This is also the temperature at which human skin can suffer third-degree burns. If your child has suffered an injury while under the supervision of someone else, contact a child injury lawyer today to discuss your case.

Different cars do get hotter at different speeds. The rate at which a car gets too hot to survive also depends upon the amount of light and shade, as well as the time of day in which the car is parked. The recent study explored how these factors would likely affect the body of a 2-year-old child who was left in a hot car on a warm day. The researchers determined that even a vehicle parked in a shady area can lead to a deadly child heat injury. Between January 2018 and May 2018, six children died in hot cars. Given that these deaths occurred outside the summer months, experts anticipate that the number will rise significantly by the end of the summer. On average, 37 children die every year as a result of hot car deaths, which can include “complications from hyperthermia.” This and other non-traffic injuries are among the major culprits of child injuries and fatalities that parents should be aware of.

Hyperthermia is one of the primary causes of hot car deaths. It is a condition in which the body reaches a temperature of more than 104 degrees and “cannot cool down.” In about 50% of hyperthermia cases in children, the condition and death resulted from a parent or caregiver forgetting the child in the car. Children should never be left in a car under any circumstances. Nancy Selover, a climatologist at Arizona State University and co-author of the study, explained, “our study not only quantifies temperature differences inside vehicles parked in the shade and sun but also makes clear that even parking a vehicle in the shade can be lethal to a small child.”

On an 80 degree day, for example, a car parked in shade could still be 100 degrees. On a 90 degree day, a car can reach in excess of 140 degrees in just an hour’s time. On a 70 degree day, for example, your car can reach the 115-degree range, dangerous for living beings, particularly pets, children and the elderly. In either scenario, one could die from hyperthermia. The bottom line — don’t take a chance by leaving people or animals in your vehicle, particularly in the summer.

Tips to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

It might seem unlikely to any given parent that it is possible to forget a child in a car. However, according to Gene Brewer, an associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, it “can happen to anyone.” What can parents do to prevent a hot car death? Consider the following tips from Children’s Health:

  • Put your cell phone, purse, briefcase, or another important item in the back seat with your child;
  • Stay in contact with caregivers who are transporting your child;
  • Check that everyone is out of the car before you lock your car doors;
  • Ask that a school or daycare provider contact you immediately if your child does not arrive; and
  • Call 911 if you see a child inside a hot car by themselves.

If you have questions or concerns, you should speak with a child injury lawyer.

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