Children should never be left inside of a vehicle, even if it is only for a few minutes. A vehicle parked outside on a warm day can get very hot, very quickly. Jan Null, an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University, explained to Heatkills.org that “basically the car becomes a greenhouse. At 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees.”
According to Kidsandcars.org, on average, 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles — but that number is often higher. In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars. There have been 21 reported child deaths so far in 2019. The Atlanta Constitution-Journal reports that “Georgia ranks among the top five states for total numbers of children killed [in hot cars] since the report started tracking them.”
What happens when a child is left in a hot car?
The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles explains that children’s bodies heat up more quickly than adults’ do – about 3 to 5 times faster. Small children who are locked into car seats have no way of getting out of the car or out of the direct sun, either. Within the first 30 minutes, the temperature inside the car will rise rapidly, and the child will begin to overheat. The symptoms of overheating can include:
- Rapid breathing
If the child’s temperature reaches 104ºF, he or she can suffer heat stroke. If it reaches 107 ºF, the child could die.
What if I leave my child in the car running with the air conditioning on?
It is never advised to leave your child in the car running with the air conditioning on. If the child opens the windows, he or she loses the benefit of the air conditioning. . The child could also fall out of a window, or accidentally move the gear shifter in the car, sustaining additional injuries.
Protecting your child from heatstroke
What can you do to ensure that your child is safe from heatstroke in the car?
- Keep car doors locked at all times when you are not in the vehicle.
- Use a loose blanket over your child in a car seat instead of a jacket.
- Keep a toy in the unused car seat that you can throw into the passenger seat while driving, so that you remember your child is in the back.
- Always place your purse or phone in the backseat while driving with your child, so that you cannot run out of the car without looking in the back.
- Park your car in a garage or under a shaded area to keep it cooler.
- Do not put a child in a car with broken windows or no air conditioning.
What to do if you see a child locked in a hot car or suffering from heatstroke
The majority of hot car-related child deaths are accidents: 53.8% of the time, a driver forgets the child is in the car, and 26.3% of the time, the child gains access to the car on his or her own.
If you see a child locked in a hot car, you should immediately call 9-1-1. You can also attempt to break the child out of the car without being subject to liability, under Georgia’s “Good Samaritan” law.
You should also call 9-1-1 if you see a child suffering from heatstroke. There are no acceptable “home remedies” to treat the condition; emergency medical care is needed. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms of heatstroke:
- High body temperature
- Altered mental state or behavior
- Alteration in sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Racing heart rate
Hot cars can kill children, adults, and pets. We want you to be safe when you’re in the car, and for your children to be safe, too. If your child is injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact the Georgia child injury lawyers of Harris Lowry Manton LLP for a free consultation, or call us in Atlanta at 404-961-7650, or in Savannah at 912-651-9967.