Children, Adults and Pets Enclosed in Parked Vehicles Are at Great Risk

Each year children die from hyperthermia as a result of being left in parked vehicles. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, adults and pets. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.

Shown below is a time lapse photo of a thermometer reading in a car over a period of less than an hour. As the photograph shows, in just over 2 minutes the call went from a safe temperature to 94.3 degree F. These photos demonstrate just how quickly a vehicle can become a death trap for a child.

Hyperthermia deaths aren’t confined to summer months. They also happen during the spring and fall. Below are some examples.

  • Honolulu, HI, March 07, 2007: A 3-year-old girl died when the father left her in a child seat for an 1.5 hours while he visited friends in a Makiki apartment building. The outside temperature was only 81 degrees.
  • North Augusta, SC, April 2006: A mother left her 15 month old son in a car. He was in a car for 9 hours while his mom went to work. She is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.
  • Denver, CO, August 2008: Two kids that died in an overheated car may have been on their own for more than 3 hours as their mother slept after working a night shift. The kids died in a closed but unlocked car. Investigators believe the temperature in the car may have reached 123 degrees F.

Adults are in danger too. On July 12, 2001, a man died of heatstroke after falling asleep in his car with the windows rolled up in the parking lot of a supermarket in Hinds County, MS.

How Fast Can the Sun Heat A Car?

The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively “transparent” to the sun’s shortwave radiation (yellow in figure below) and are warmed little. This shortwave energy, however, does heat objects it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to more than 200 degrees F.

These objects (e.g., dashboard, steering wheel, childseat) heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off longwave radiation (red) which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.

Objects Heated by the Sun Warm Vehicle’s Air

Heat Safety Tips –

For Children:

  • Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks–even at home–and keep keys out of children’s reach.
  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t leave sleeping infants in the car ever!

For Adults:

  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or rescheduled strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, senior and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol or decaffeinated fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limited caffeinated beverages.
  • During excess heat period, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduced your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

If you are interested in more heat wave safety tips to keep your loved ones safe this summer, contact our Total Protection Team at 877-994-6787 or Email insure@siaonline.com.

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