Temperatures are climbing faster than gas prices throughout most of Idaho, bringing an extreme threat to children and pets left – even briefly – inside parked or idling cars.
For all of their safety features designed to protect occupants, cars can become death traps for confined children and animals.
This year, at least 13 children nationwide have died after being left inside a hot vehicle, according to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University. At least 42 child fatalities were attributed to confinement inside vehicles last year; since 1998 the number of victims exceeds 300.
A recent study of child deaths since 1995 indicates that 39 percent of the children were “forgotten” by a caregiver; 27 percent were playing in an unattended vehicle; 20 percent were intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult. The reason for confinement in the remaining 14 percent of the instances is undetermined.
More children died of hyperthermia (extremely high body temperatures) from 1998 to 2004 than as a result of hurricanes (230 to 178).
The threat is simple and severe.
In a 90-degree environment, it takes less than 20 minutes for the inside of a car to reach 125 degrees. In less than 40 minutes the inside temperature can soar to 140 degrees. A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s. Left in an automobile on a hot day, children are vulnerable to heat exhaustion and hyperthermia.
Symptoms include lethargy, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea and a body temperature of up to 104 degrees, according to the Texas Children’s Hospital. Children lose their ability to sweat, resulting in seizures, stroke and ultimately death.
Temperatures do not need to reach triple digits to pose life-threatening conditions for children.
Consider a study in 2002 of a dark blue mid-size sedan with a medium gray interior.
Temperatures on 16 random summer days ranged between 72 and 96 degrees. Inside the test vehicle, the temperature rose an average of 19 degrees in 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 20 minutes, 34 degrees in 30 minutes and 43 degrees in an hour. Leaving the window down slightly produced little relief. Vehicle interior colors appear to be a major factor in how rapidly automobile temperatures rise.
During these hot summer days, please take the following precautions to prevent child deaths: