Hot-Weather Warning Issued About Leaving Children in Parked Cars

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2002
Contact: Jan K. Carney, MD
Vermont Health Commissioner
802-863-7280

BURLINGTON, VT—With the arrival of hot weather, Vermont’s health commissioner is reminding motorists not to leave a child in a parked vehicle.

“We all should know how dangerous it is,” said Dr. Jan K. Carney, “yet every year, adults forget and children die.

“When the temperature reaches the 90s,” she said, “the interior of a parked car can reach 125 degrees in less time than it takes to run a short errand—even when the window is left open a crack for air.”

At that temperature, she said, a child can suffer heatstroke within minutes, followed by permanent disability or death. Heatstroke can occur when the body temperature reaches 105 degrees, death at 107 degrees, she said.

The National Safe Kids Campaign (www.SafeKids.org) recently found that almost one in 10 parents surveyed thought it was all right to leave a child unattended in a car. Among parents between the ages of 18 and 24, that number was doubled.

“These are disturbing statistics,” Dr. Carney said. “Some people still aren’t getting the message: Parked cars on hot days are killers.”

The organization notes that, nationally, at least 150 children have died since 1996 as the result of being left or trapped in a hot, parked vehicle. It stresses the importance of locking parked cars at home to keep children from playing in them.

“Many of these children were in car seats and left behind or forgotten by an adult, while others gained access to an unlocked car and could not get out,” the organization said.

Dr. Carney said that elderly people and those who are ill may also be especially vulnerable.

“If you are responsible for an adult who is vulnerable, either park in the shade with the windows down, or take the adult with you when you are ducking into a store or making a similar stop,” she said.