Heat Stroke in Cars is a Year-Round Danger For Children

Summer is here and so is the warm weather. That means everyone should be on the lookout for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. And while most people know to hydrate and keep cool, there are some circumstances where heat stroke can occur unexpectedly. Heat stroke can be more dangerous to children than parents might expect. This is because heat stroke not only causes uncomfortable symptoms, such as nausea, headache, dizziness, and fainting–it can also be fatal.

Heat Stroke and Cars

Since 1998, over 800 children have died from heat stroke in vehicles, according to NoHeatStroke.org. This problem has persisted over time–last year saw the highest number of child heat stroke caused deaths at 52. In fact, between 2014 and 2018, heatstroke was the cause of 23% of all child non-traffic fatalities and accounted for 63% of child non-traffic fatalities that occurred inside the car. While this trend may shock and concern parents, many do not appreciate the danger of heat stroke in cars. It can happen to careful parents on a cool day, and it can happen faster than many realize.

Weather Can Be Deceptive

Parents may only think about the risk of heat stroke on a particularly hot day, when the danger is apparent. But sealed cars in fact behave like greenhouses when left in the sun, so benign weather can turn a car into dangerous environment. Consumer Reports tested the relative danger of heat stroke on children depending on the outside temperature, type of car, and amount of direct sunlight. They found that “even when it was 61° F outside, the temperature inside a closed car reached more than 105° F in just 1 hour, an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal level for a child.” Additionally, they found that factors such as whether the car was light or dark, or whether the car was parked in the shade had little total impact on the car’s temperature conditions. Parents should not underestimate how quickly a seemingly safe car can heat up, and take appropriate measures to make sure they consider this on temperate days.

Attentive Parents Still at Risk

Even with the knowledge of how often vehicular heatstroke occurs in children, there are some parents who believe that they are not at risk since it only happens with negligent parents. However, in nearly all observed cases of vehicular heatstroke, the parents were caring and attentive with no evidence of prior neglect. Professor David Diamond—a neuroscientist who has been studying forgotten children in cars since 2004—believes that the main cause is “a suppression of prospective memory caused by the dominance of the brain’s habit memory system”. The habit memory system is responsible for repetitive tasks and routines and can overcome prospective memory, which is responsible for executing future actions outside of your normal routine such as remembering to stop at the bank or drop off your child at daycare before heading to work. Most of the documented occurrences happen with a change in routine.

Heat Stroke Prevention Tips

This tragic problem occurs not when parents take risks, but when parents aren’t even aware of the risks. Here are some tips and reminders on heat stroke and cars for parents from NoHeatStroke.org:

  • Never leave children unattended in a car, even for a very short amount of time;
  • Alert someone if you see an unattended child in a hot car;
  • Cars can heat up rapidly–a car heats up fastest in the first 20 minutes;
  • Cracking the windows often does not adequately cool down the car;
  • Pay special attention to rear-facing car seats; heat stroke related deaths increased after wider adoption of rear facing car seats, as they obstruct the driver’s view of the backseat passengers.

If you or a loved one have suffered from a wrongful injury, you owe it to yourself to get help. Contact the legal team at Regan Zambri Long PLLC for a free consultation about your personal injury case today.