Hearing on the news that a child has passed away from being left in a hot car is always a sad story. You think to yourself how awful it is and question how that could ever happen. Well, according to CarPro USA, in 2019, there were 52 child heatstroke deaths. Most of these incidents are unfortunate accidents, however they are preventable. Tragedy can happen in a matter of minutes, so learn how to keep children and pets safe from the risks associated with prolonged periods of time spent in a hot vehicle.
Facts on car heat
Even if it doesn’t seem dangerously hot outside, a car magnifies heat rapidly thereby increasing the potential for injury or even death. According to Red Duke Trauma Institute, within the first 10 minutes, a car can heat up by 20 degrees. For example, on an 80-degree day, an inside car temperature can increase to 100 degrees in only 10 minutes.
Additionally, children overheat 4-5 times faster than adults, meaning it could only take 10 minutes for a child’s condition to become life-threatening. According to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, for pets, brain damage or death can occur from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.
Risks associated with children and pets
When children and pets are left in hot vehicles, they are at risk of a multitude of health complications that vary in severity. It is important to note that these risks are not eliminated by simply leaving the windows down.
If exposed to extreme heat in a vehicle, a child could suffer from:
- Heart attack
- Brain damage
There are also risks associated with pets when left in a vehicle with rising temperatures. Those include:
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke
- Brain damage
How it happens
There are many ways a heat related tragedy can occur. Adults are busy and can often become distracted and forget that their child/pet is in the backseat. Another way that a dangerous situation could arise is miscommunication between parents/guardians by thinking one adult has the children/pets taken care of when they don’t. Lastly, adults may not pay attention to the temperature outside or they aren’t aware of how hot it actually is, especially in a car.
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Tips to prevent it from happening
Although these incidents are accidental, there are steps you can take to prevent them from occurring to your children and pets.
- Make it part of your daily routine to check your car before you leave it and lock it
- Never leave your child or pet unattended, even with the windows down
- Set a reminder or alert on your phone
- Leave an important item such as your phone, wallet, etc. in the backseat so you are forced to check it
- Lock your car every time it is unoccupied to prevent children who are playing outside from climbing in without your knowledge
- Communicate with your spouse or partner so the location of your children is always known by all parents and/or guardians. This will eliminate the risk of a child being forgotten and left behind in a hot car
If an emergency were to arise, it is crucial to call 911, remove the child from the hot vehicle and splash them with cool (not iced) water. For pets, contact local police or animal control, remove the pet from the vehicle if you can (check state laws to make sure this is legal first), then find an air-conditioned building and provide cool water to drink and to splash on them. Although it is good to know what to do in a dangerous situation, it is even more important to take the proper safety precautions to avoid a tragedy completely.
This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. To learn more about Integrity’s home, auto and business insurance, speak with your local independent agent.
1. CarPro USA
2. Red Duke Trauma Institute