Every summer, we hear numerous cases of the same tragic stories – parents, for whatever reason, leave their children in their cars out in the hot summer sun.
Some do it thinking perhaps they will only be a few minutes in whatever place they’re dashing off to. Although leaving a child in a car alone – no matter where, when or what the temperature – is impossible to fathom in virtually any case.
Then there are others who are so plugged into a routine, that they become distracted and simply forget their helpless youngsters – only to remember six or so hours later. It’s horrifying to think about.
Not long ago, there was a report on TV about a woman who had left her son in her car. She agreed that at one time, she would have been one of those people who simply couldn’t have fathomed making such a tragic mistake. Then it happened to her, as she explained her routine had taken a few unexpected turns that fateful morning. She lives with the pain, guilt and grief everyday, and now tries to bring more awareness to the issue.
It’s likely that many people don’t really understand the speed in which a vehicle can go from being warm to being excruciatingly hot.
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.
In the confined space of a car, temperatures can climb so rapidly that they overwhelm a child’s ability to regulate his or her internal temperature. In a closed environment, the body, especially a small body, can go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail, the web site points out.
Extreme heat affects infants and small children more quickly and dramatically than adults because of their size. Their core temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches 40.5C.
A study funded by General Motors of Canada found that within 20 minutes the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exposed to the sun on a 35C day exceeded 50C. Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 65.5C
Leaving a window slightly open, or ‘cracked,’ did little to prevent the temperature from rising to a level that is dangerous for children, vulnerable adults and pets.
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.
It is never safe to leave a child alone in a vehicle, period. Even for a few minutes.