Leaving Children in Hot Cars Can Have Deadly Consequences

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There is no danger when the car is parked, right? Many people assume that their vehicle is entirely harmless when sitting still in a parking lot. While that may be true at times, if you ever leave an unattended child or baby in the car, the temperature in the vehicle may become a hazard. This is especially relevant in the late spring, summer, and early fall when temperatures are warmer. In order to combat the rising death toll this summer has taken, be sure to never leave a child or baby left alone in your vehicle at any time. And, if you see a child, or pet, left in a likely hot vehicle, you can either wait a few minutes to see if the parent is coming back, or you can take action immediately by contacting the authorities.


19 Child Heatstroke Deaths in 2016 Already


National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention and Awareness Day just took place just recently on July 31st, according to kidsandcars.org. The aim of this day is just as the name implies: to remind parents and other supervising adults that leaving a child or pet inside a car during the summer can be fatal. Sadly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there have already been 19 child fatalities in 2016 due to heatstroke, meaning that a child dies in a hot vehicle at a rate of just under one death per 10 days. In 2013, there were a total of 44 children deaths due to car-induced heatstroke.


Vehicles Absorb Heat Rapidly and Can Harm or Kill a Young Child in a Handful of Minutes


It may be difficult to comprehend since most drivers make ample use of their air conditioning during the summer months, but the temperature in a parked car can rise to deadly levels in just a matter of minutes. The heat from the sun is absorbed by the car and trapped in, resulting in a greenhouse-like environment. If the outside air temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, in 10 minutes it will likely be up to 109 and at 20 minutes it will be 119 according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Even a relatively low outside air temperature of 70 degrees can be dangerous, as the car would only take 30 minutes to reach 104 degrees.


Signs of Heat Stroke


Heat stroke can be a fatal condition, or cause permanent brain damage. Before heat stroke, heat exhaustion occurs. During the heat exhaustion stage, the following may be experienced:


  • Extreme thirst;
  • Confusion;
  • Fainting;
  • Dizziness;
  • Dark urine;
  • Headache;
  • Cramps; and
  • Nausea or vomiting.


During heat exhaustion, a person’s skin may feel clammy, as they likely still have the body fluids available to produce sweat. Heat stroke is a more serious condition, and the affected person’s skin may even feel hot and dry (the skin can also feel moist). According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of heat stroke are as follows:


  • Body temperature of 104 or greater;
  • Very high heart rate;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • High rate of breathing;
  • Throbbing headache; and
  • Extreme confusion, delirium, slurred speech, seizures, or coma.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Summer Safety Tips


Leaving a child or pet in a vehicle to run a quick errand can have deadly effects due to the rapid rise in temperature. Heat exhaustion can cause serious health problems for a very young or already sick child or adult. And, heat stress can be a fatal condition for even the fittest and most healthy children or adults. As such, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends following the advice listed below at all times:


  • At no time should you leave a child or baby unattended in a vehicle. Leaving the windows open and/or the car on with the air conditioning running is not acceptable either (the air conditioning may falter and no one will be there to assist the child if that happens);


  • Look in the vehicle every time you walk away to form a habit of checking that your child or pets are not in the vehicle;


  • If you have trouble remembering when your child is in the vehicle with you, write a note on the steering wheel or place your phone or wallet in the backseat with the child so that you remember to grab the item (and your child of course) when you exit;


  • Ensure that your child care assistant knows these rules;


  • Do not allow your children to play in the vehicle when it is parked at home, and keep the keys out of reach; and


  • Call 911 if you see a young child left alone in a hot car. You may need to act before the police arrive by breaking a window and rapidly cooling the child immediately with water and ice in an air conditioned building.


Child Deaths Caused by Heat a Tragic and Unchecked Problem for Decades


775 children have died due to heat exposure in unattended vehicles since 1990, according to Kids and Cars. Babies and toddlers are unable to speak up when a parent walks into the grocery store for a 10-20 minute shopping trip. In that time, the inside temperature can rise to over 100 degrees, even with the windows cracked open. As such, make it a practice to never leave your child in a car unattended. There are groups advocating for technology to alert parents when the leave a child in an overly warm vehicle, though no such technology exists as of this writing (it does exist for leaving the headlights on, for example). Instead, it is every parent and community members’ responsibility to ensure that it does not happen.


Contact an Atlanta Area Car Accident Attorney Today


If you or a family member have been injured in any type of vehicle collision or other preventable accident, and the other party was responsible for causing those injuries, you may be owed considerable compensation. Contact the dedicated Atlanta car accident lawyers at the law offices of Ted A. Greve & Associates, Injury Lawyers today. Call us now for immediate assistance.