From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


Summer Heat Can Kill Kids Left in Cars

Posted Jun 05, 2008.

Summer Heat Can Kill Kids Left in Cars

Summer Alert!

Each summer we hear tragic reports of children dying from overheated temperatures after being left in a vehicle unattended. It is critical for parents of young children not to underestimate the dangers involved.

In a poll conducted by the National Safe Kids Campaign and General Motors, one in five young parents still believe it is acceptable to leave kids alone in or around a motor vehicle. Between 1998-2007 365 deaths were reported as a result of a child being left or trapped in a vehicle. Approximately 36 deaths occur each year due to heat related incidents - most of them involve children three years and under.

Parked Car Facts

Some important facts for parents include:

  • On a sunny day, temperatures of only 60 degrees Fahrenheit can become a dangerous oven within minutes inside a parked vehicle with closed windows. Dark colored seats also attract and increase heat conditions.
  • Young children’s core body temperature rises 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. Because heat affects children more quickly and severely than adults, children are especially vulnerable to brain damage and death.
  • Air temperature in the nineties can heat up within 20 minutes to dangerous levels of 125 degrees in a closed vehicle. Within 40 minutes, that same temperature can rise to 140 degrees.
  • Young children can climb inside a parked vehicle and become trapped, unable to get out.

Some Simple Steps To Protect Young Children

  • Lock your vehicles at all times, doors and trunk, even in the driveway or garage. Young children can climb inside and become trapped, unable to get out.
  • Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in or around cars. Keep car keys out of reach and out of sight of children.
  • If your vehicle has child-resistant locks, teach older children how to unlock the doors.
  • Plan to take children with you while running errands or make needed arrangements for them to be left in a caring environment with a competent person.
  • When making plans with parents, consider and discuss arrangements that may be needed for all children involved.
  • Consider contacting your car dealership to get your car fitted with a trunk release mechanism.
  • Folding windshield shades can keep the interior of a car from getting hot, but it does not make it safe for a child to be left inside.
  • Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition. If you find a child in a parked car, call 911, and get air to the child, even if a window needs to be broken.

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