Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Between 1998 and 2015, approximately 661 child vehicular heatstroke deaths occurred in the U.S., according to data from the San Jose State University Department of Meteorology and Climate Science. About 54 percent of those children were “forgotten” by a caregiver; 29 percent of the children were playing in an unattended vehicle; 17 percent were intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult; and one percent died under unknown circumstances.

As of Wednesday morning, 23 children have died in the United States this year, two of which occurred over the weekend. Of the 23 deaths, children range in age from four months to four years old and include one North Carolina death in Wilmington.

While the causes of death are vehicular heatstroke, how the child gets into the car isn’t always easily determined. According to news reports on the 23 incidents, 12 children were left in a hot car after being forgotten by a caregiver, eight children died after being found in the vehicle after playing outside around the vehicle and gaining access to the vehicle on their own, and three were left in the car intentionally.

Safe Kids Macon County held a hot car demonstration on Tuesday at the Macon County Public Library to show how quickly the temperature in a vehicle can rise, even on a partly cloudy day. At 9:30 a.m, the outside temperature was 78.8 degrees and the temperature inside the car was 80.3 degrees. In an hour, the temperature outside had only increased 3 degrees to 81.2 degrees, yet the temperature inside the parked car had reached 97 degrees. By 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the outside temperature reached 95 degrees and the inside car temperature has soared to 160 degrees, completely melting Hersey kisses that had been left on the dashboard.

“We wanted to educate parents and children about the dangers of not just leaving a child alone inside of a hot car, but also the dangers of kids playing inside of hot cars,” said Safe Kids Macon County Deputy Josh Stewart. “Even when it is partly cloudy, or when the windows are cracked, the temperature inside of a car can easily be 20 degrees hotter than the temperature outside.”