Nebraskans are reminded of the deadly consequences of leaving a child in a car, especially during the summer. Nationwide, 14 infants have died this year after being left in hot vehicles, though none of the deaths were in Nebraska.
Child safety advocate BeLinda DeBolt says it doesn’t take long for the heat to skyrocket in a closed car. “When the outside temperature is 93 degrees, even with the window cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in just 20 minutes and 140 degrees in 40 minutes,” DeBolt says.
Last year, there were at least 42 deaths in the United States due to hyperthermia after infants were left in hot vehicles. Since 1998, there have been at least 428 of these deaths. These incidents can happen even with relatively mild temperatures, like 70 degrees, as DeBolt says vehicles can occur reach life-threatening temperatures very quickly.
“Extreme heat rapidly overwhelms the body’s ability to regulate the temperature, so the body can go into shock and circulation and vital organs will begin to fail when it gets too hot,” DeBolt says. “Infants and small children are particularly vulnerable due to their body configuration.”
DeBolt shares a few important tips for keeping children from playing in cars without their parents’ permission. “Keep your cars locked at all times, even if it’s in the garage or driveway,” she says. “We don’t want to teach our children to play in or around cars.” She adds, keep car keys out of children’s reach and out of their sight.
A study of 361 child vehicular hyperthermia deaths for a ten-year period (1998 through 2007) shows the following circumstances: 51% – child “forgotten” by caregiver, 30% – child playing in unattended vehicle, 18% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult, and 1% – circumstances unknown.