It’s August in Georgia. Not only is the heat sweltering above limits, but add in heat’s infamous companion— humidity— combined with a hot vehicle, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for brutal tragedy. Heat is a silent killer. And it is never okay to leave your children or animals inside of a car, regardless of the month of the year or if the windows are cracked.
It may seem like an acceptable notion to quickly run inside the bank for a deposit while your child patiently waits with cracked-open windows. Do not ever do this. Let’s explain why. On a pleasant 75°F day, your car’s interior can heat to 90°F in less than two minutes. Within twenty minutes, the car’s inside temperature can rise to 104°F. After an hour, the temperature will exceed 120°F. Radiating through the windows, the sun’s radiation heats up the surfaces and air inside the vehicle, but the air cannot escape back through the glass. Cracking the windows does not reduce the hazard.
For reference, if it is 70°F outside, it will take approximately 30 minutes to reach 104°F inside the car. Any individual, regardless of age, is at risk for a heat stroke when their body temperature exceeds 104°F. Additionally, children’s respiratory systems are not well-developed, causing them to absorb the heat three to five times faster than adults. If an individual’s temperature exceeds 104°F, their ability to handle heat is overpowered and symptoms of a heat stroke begin. Primary symptoms of a heat stroke include dizziness and disorientation, while secondary symptoms may lead to loss of consciousness, increased heart-rate, hallucinations, and death. At 107°F, the human body’s organs will stop functioning.
In the United States, heat strokes from vehicles are the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of 14. Despite robust public announcements and tragic reports, approximately 39 children per year are killed from being left unattended in hot cars. Almost 90 percent of these hot car deaths are children under the age of 3. It is never safe to leave a child in the car, regardless of the duration of time.
TIP: Leave a diaper bag or some of the child’s belongings in the front seat. This serves as a reminder that there is a child in the backseat.
Like adults and children, animals are also not equipped to handle hot car temperatures. Additionally, animals, specifically dogs, have a very difficult time cooling themselves down because they lack proper cooling mechanisms compared to humans. For example, if a dog is left in a hot car for merely 15 minutes, a dog’s internal temperature could increase from 101.5 to 105, which can immediately cause brain damage or death.
Heat is a silent killer. Every second your child or pet is left to wait in the car, the interior temperature is getting sweltering hot and more lethal by the minute. It is never safe to leave a child or a pet in the car, no matter the amount of time. It will turn lethal. Always, always, always check the back seat and the trunk before getting out of your car.