Hot Weather, Vehicles Deadly Combination For Kids

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

As temperatures heat up, children are at serious risk for heat stroke when left alone even for a few minutes in a closed vehicle. Approximately 365 children across the United States have died from heatstroke caused by being left or trapped in a vehicle over the past decade.

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.

"A child is our most precious cargo and drivers must know that these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable," said Janet Olszewski, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, the lead agency for Safe Kids Michigan. "Our hearts go out to every family that has lost a child in this way. No one ever thinks it will happen to them, and that is why it's essential to get this message out, especially during the summer months."

Safe Kids USA and General Motors created the Never Leave Your Child Alone program to educate families about 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.


"The inside of a vehicle can rise 19 degrees above the outside temperature in just 10 minutes," said Jeff Spitzley, coordinator of Safe Kids Michigan. "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 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. Chevrolet became the lead brand in the partnership in 2004. Nationwide, more than 13 million people have been exposed to the program through hands-on educational activities, car seat checkup events and community outreach programs.