Safety first – always

Reports of toddlers being left in rapidly heating vehicles are spurring all kinds of questions.

How could this happen? Where were the parents? How exactly does a person forget about their child in a car for any length of time?

It’s unimaginable, and a stark reminder of how dangerously fast vehicles heat up in the summer sun. Every year we hear of children being left in cars in hot temperatures. Perhaps the message of how deadly this is is getting through, or is it?

It’s doubtful many really understand the speed in which a vehicle can go from being warm to being excruciatingly hot. But the deaths continue, leaving families aching with grief and no doubt plagued by feelings of haunting remorse.

Experts point out that leaving the windows even slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate.

According to the Canada Safety Council, even on days that seem relatively mild, 20 minutes is all it takes for the interior of a vehicle to reach extreme temperatures.

These conditions can cause a child to go into shock and sustain vital organ failure.

Heat levels in a car exposed to the sun on a 35C day can soar to 50C within 20 minutes.

Heat stroke occurs at 40.5C. When the body’s core temperature reaches this point, sweat reserves are depleted and a person’s body is no longer able to cool itself. The body’s core temperature shoots even higher, resulting in severe organ damage and (without intervention) death.

Children are especially sensitive to heat exposure because their sweat glands are not fully developed, which means their bodies are not capable of cooling down quickly. When exposed to heat, a child’s body temperature rises three times faster than an adult in the same conditions.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could forget their child in a vehicle – no matter the season or the weather. But they do – even responsible folks.

Experts therefore recommend that parents and guardians put something they will need, like a cell phone, near the child in the backseat. The Canada Safety Council even recommends putting a toy on the front seat as a reminder there is a child onboard. Also, it’s recommended to develop the habit of consciously checking that all occupants are out of the vehicle before it is parked and locked.

These measures seem so unnecessary. When a child dies in a heated vehicle, outrage runs rampant. And so it should – it’s absolutely outrageous that these senseless deaths occur. But it’s not always about a child being left in a car.

Fatalities can also occur is a child enters an unlocked vehicle and is unable to get out. Vehicle owners should keep the doors and the trunk locked at all times while the vehicle is unattended.

Ultimately, people should take the Canada Safety Council’s advice and do whatever it takes to keep their kids safe and sound in the summer sun.

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