Monday marked the first day of summer, and with the summer season comes rising temperatures and safety concerns for children. On Sunday, June 18, twin three-year-old siblings died in a hot truck in Bossier City, La., marking the 14th and 15th child that has died in a hot vehicle so far in 2016 and on Tuesday the 16th child died in Texas. Since 1998, at least 670 children across the United States have died in cars from heatstroke. Last year, a total of 24 children died as a result of being unattended in a hot vehicle, with 30 deaths in 2014, and 44 deaths in 2013.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. On average, every eight days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. In addition to children dying each year from being left alone in a hot car, hundreds of pets die each year as a result of heat exhaustion as well.
Heatstroke sets in when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult, making them more susceptible to heatstroke. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and when that temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
The temperature inside a vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, it can increase almost 30º F. At 60 minutes, the temperature in a vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. On a 70-degree day, 110 degrees is possible inside a vehicle.
Last week, Safe Kids of Macon County discussed ways to raise awareness and educate the community on the dangers of hot vehicles throughout the summer.
“We are just now hitting the summer months, and already more than a dozen children in the United States, including one in North Carolina, have already died from being left alone in a vehicle. That shouldn’t happen and is something preventable that we need to work toward educating the community on,” said Safe Kids Macon County coordinator Deputy Josh Stewart. “Over the summer, we want to schedule educational events and opportunities for the community to see firsthand the dangers of leaving a child or pet alone in a car for even a minute. These fatalities are avoidable and with education and awareness hopefully we can prevent them from occurring in our community.”
Safe Kids Macon County plans to partner with the Jackson County coalition to set up hot car displays at community events. Safe Kids Jackson County has a display that shows how rapidly the temperature inside a vehicle rises, even on a cool, cloudy day. The display demonstrates how when the temperate outside may be a tolerable 65 or 70 degrees, a car’s interior temperature can rapidly rise to 20 degrees higher than that.
Safe Kids offers these guidelines to reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to A-C-T:
A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child or pet alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child or pet such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
T: Take action. If you see a child or pet alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.