Leaving children in hot cars remains problematic after record number of deaths in 2018


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The heat outside has been near unbearable at times this past week. It can be even more dangerous for children left inside a closed-up car.

Air conditioning has made traveling on hot summer days comfortable. But, when the car is parked and the air conditioning is off, the inside of a car can heat up quickly. That can mean trouble for kids left in the car, whether on purpose or by accident.

At Raleigh’s Pullen Park, there’s a steady stream of parents and young ones getting in and out of cars,

At a destination like that, parents come to the park for their kids, so it’s unlikely a parent will forget their child is in the back seat.

But, in other circumstances, it can and does happen.

“For some parents, maybe it slips their minds,” parent Brain Kalsbeek said.

More than a dozen children have died in hot cars so far this year, following a record-breaking 52 child deaths in 2018.

“I’m hypersensitive about it, but I’ve heard stories, and it’s heartbreaking,” said parent Mollie Quirk.

A thermometer inside a car left sitting in the sun took 20 minutes to jump from 70 to 100 degrees. That’s enough to cause heatstroke, which can kill a child.

A child’s body temperature rises up to five times faster than an adult’s. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees.

A child will die when its core temperature reaches 107 degrees.

“I don’t want to leave myself in a hot car, so I’m sure I take them with me,” said parent Gregory Johnson. “If I’m stopping for a short or long period, I always take them with me.”

Some vehicles will give you a warning that there’s something in your backseat. Lawmakers want it to be mandatory, but the Hot Car Act of 2019 remains pending in Congress. 

“You have to have a warning when you leave your car,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who is a sponsor of the bill. “You should get that warning if you leave a child in a car.”

Quirk says having an automobile remind you of a child in the back seat would be potentially helpful for some people.

One suggestion from the website Kids and Cars is to place something like your cellphone or briefcase or purse in the backseat next to your child.

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