Kids in hot cars

Preventing Hot Car Deaths During the Pandemic: What to Know

It's a heartbreaking tragedy to hear of a child dying in a hot car. If your child is staying home for classes, here's an important safety lesson.

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To date in 2020, 14 children have died inside hot cars, one of which was in Southern California.

This is how it occurs: shortwave radiation or sunlight gets inside the car. Long-wave radiation exits the car with the doors open. This keeps the same temperatures outside the car and inside the car.  But once the door shuts, the long-wave radiation is trapped and can’t escape the car. This makes the car act like an oven. 

For example, if it's 80 degrees outside, in 10 minutes with the door closed it’s 19 degrees hotter inside the car. In 20 minutes, it’s 109 degrees. Our bodies have a difficult time cooling when the temperature is above 105 degrees. Children’s bodies heat up five times faster than adults, making the situation all the more deadly.

From there, it extrapolates:

  • After 30 minutes, it's 114°
  • After 40 minutes, it's 118°
  • After 50 minutes, it's 121°
  • After an hour, the car is 123°

An 80-degree temperature is a close average of the temperature of the two most recent vehicular heatstroke deaths in Southern California. In November, in the city of Walnut, an 18-month-old boy was left in a car with an outside temperature of 73 degrees. A few weeks ago, a 22-month-old boy died in Fullerton with the temperature at 84° degrees.

Historically, more than half of the children who die in a hot car are forgotten, officials report.

More than a quarter gain access on their own. These cases are usually from kids playing and getting into a car and unable to get out.

Nineteen percent are left intentionally; some people don’t know how quickly a car heats up and they leave babies in the car while they run errands, for example. 

Safety experts say "look before you lock," but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, six of the 14 kids who died in a hot car were not forgotten. They got in on their own while playing.

With many children being home schooled next semester, it's worth teaching kids to never to play in a parked car. If you are ever missing your child, check the pool first, if you have one, and then check the car.  

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