One of the biggest weather related risks during the summer months is the possibility of a child dying in a vehicle from heat stroke. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, and 50 degrees in an hour- even when outside air temperatures are in the 70's! The inside of a car acts like a greenhouse, where actual temperatures inside the vehicle can reach 120°F in minutes and approach 150°F in as little as an hour! This can cause hyperthermia (heat stroke) in only minutes, particularly in children, whose body temperatures warm at a rate three to five times faster than an adult. Studies have shown that "cracking the windows" provides little (if any) relief.
From 1998 through 2012, 20 children in Louisiana and 12 children in Mississippi have died from heat stroke suffered while in a vehicle (at least 560 children had died nationwide). Nationally, over half of these (52%) were children that were forgotten by a parent or other caregiver, and 18 percent died when parents knowingly left their child in a vehicle. The rest died playing in an unattended vehicle.
So far 1 child in both Mississippi and Louisiana have died from heastroke while in a vehicle.
All of these tragic deaths are preventable! To help bring awareness to this issue, the National Weather Service is using the slogan "Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat" to remind people to remember to check for small children in a car seat and to never leave children unattended in a vehicle- even for a few moments. Remember that pets should also never be left in a vehicle during the summer months.
The following heating car animation was created by the General Motors Corporation and depicts how rapidly the interior of an automobile can heat up within an hour when the outside temperature is at 80° F.
The following are basic safety recommendations:
Much of the information on this page is based on research by Mr. Jan Null, Certified Consulting Meteorologist, Adjunct Professor of Meteorology at San Francisco State University, CA, and a 34-year veteran with the National Weather Service. You can find his research and information- including the latest statistics- at Golden Gate Weather Services.
More information on the dangers of heat can also be found at the National Weather Service Heat Safety webpage.