Tips to avoid child heatstroke in hot cars

As July comes to end, heat advisories are in effect across the country. With the warmer weather comes a serious concern for the safety of young children and infants. Since 1998, over 600 children in the United States have died from heatstroke after being forgotten or left inside a parked car. Several children have already lost their lives in 2016, with the most recent tragic loss of a 2-year-old boy in Kentucky a few weeks ago. 

The Science of a Hot Car 

The attorneys at Taylor King Law want all parents and caretakers to be aware of the dangers of leaving a child unattended inside a car under any circumstances. According to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine,  the interior temperature of a vehicle left in the sun can increase by an average of 40 degrees in 1 hour, regardless of the temperature outside. This means that even on a mild 65-degree day, the interior temperature of a car can reach 105 degrees in 60 minutes. 

80% of this temperature rise occurs in the first 30 minutes after parking a car. This means that there is no "safe" length of time that you can leave your child inside a parked car. Partially rolling down a window has no impact on the interior temperature, researchers found; additionally, running the car's air conditioner prior to turning off the vehicle delays the temperature spike by only 5 minutes. The only proven method to keep your child safe from heatstroke is to take him or her inside with you every time you park and exit the vehicle. 


The Increased Risk to Children 

Why are small children and infants particularly at risk? This is due in part to the fact that their bodies cannot regulate their core temperature as efficiently as adults. Their body temperatures can rise 3 to 5 times faster than an adult's. And because small children may not yet be able to speak, or may likely fall asleep on a short drive, they are more likely to be overlooked. 

At 104 degrees, the body experiences symptoms of heatstroke. Those symptoms include dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and seizures. When the body temperature reaches 107 degrees, internal organs begin to shut down.  


If You See Something, Say Something - The Good Samaritan Law in Arkansas 

For every story in the news of a concerned passerby who took action to save a suffering child, there are many more citizens who are concerned that by getting involved, they might face legal repercussions for breaking a car window or for harm the child might suffer. The good news  is that a law protects people who act to help someone who is at immediate risk. 

In Arkansas and many other states, there is a Good Samaritan Law (AR Code 17-95-101) which states that any person who "acts in good faith" when they believe a person's "life, health, and safety are under imminent threat," and who takes "reasonable and accessible" action, will be protected. In other words, as long as you act 1) in good faith, 2) without gross negligence, and 3) without willful misconduct in these emergency situations, you should not face legal action for acting to save a child in an unattended car. If you see something, say something. 

For more on keeping children safe and preventing heatstroke, see the NHTSA's Parents Central site