Hot Weather, Vehicles: Deadly Combination For Kids

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A few minutes might not seem like a long time, but there are circumstances when it can mean the difference between life and death. As temperatures begin to heat up, children are at a serious risk for heat stroke when left alone even for a few minutes in a closed vehicle. Last year, at least 42 children across the United States died from heatstroke caused by being left or trapped in a vehicle.

“A child is our most precious cargo and drivers must know that these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable,” said Jan Stegelman, State Director of Safe Kids Kansas. “Our hearts go out to every family that has lost a child in this way. No one ever thinks it would happen to them, and that is why it’s essential to get this message out, especially as the weather starts heating up.”

Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. This could cause permanent injury or even death. Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A core body temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit is considered lethal.

“The inside of a vehicle can rise 19 degrees above the outside temperature in just 10 minutes,” said Stegelman. “After an hour, the temperature inside and outside of a vehicle can differ by 45 degrees or more – even if the window is left open a crack.”

Safe Kids USA and General Motors created the Never Leave Your Child Alone program to educate families on the dangers kids face in hot vehicles.

According to research conducted by San Francisco State University, even with relatively cool temperatures outside—70 degrees—the inside of a car can reach a dangerous temperature in just minutes.


The research also revealed that more than half of these children were accidentally left behind in a closed, parked car by parents or caregivers while nearly a third of these children were trapped while playing in a vehicle unattended. Sadly, one in five children who died were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.

Safe Kids suggests these tips for parents and caregivers:

* Teach children not to play in, on or around vehicles.

* Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open.

* Always lock a vehicle’s doors and trunk – especially at home. Keep keys and remote entry devices out of children’s reach.

* Place something that you’ll need at your next stop – such as a purse, a lunch, gym bag or briefcase – on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting. This simple act could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting a child.

Never Leave Your Child Alone is a component of Safe Kids Buckle Up, which was created by Safe Kids USA and General Motors in 1996 to teach families how to keep children safer in and around vehicles. Nationwide, more than 19 million people have been exposed to the program through hands-on educational activities, car seat checkup events and community outreach programs.

Safe Kids Kansas, Inc. is a nonprofit Coalition of 67 statewide organizations and businesses dedicated to preventing accidental injuries to Kansas children ages 0-14. Local coalitions and chapters are located in Allen, Anderson, Atchison, Clay, Coffey, Dickinson, Doniphan, Douglas, Elk, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Franklin, Geary, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Labette, Leavenworth, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Mitchell, Montgomery, Osage, Pottawatomie, Rice, Riley, Saline, Smith, Shawnee, Wilson and Woodson Counties, as well as the cities of Chanute, Emporia, Leavenworth, Pittsburg, the Wichita Area and the Metro Kansas City Area. Safe Kids Kansas a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury. The lead agency for Safe Kids Kansas is the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.