Hot car deaths: Study finds extreme temperatures reached in just minutes

Health experts remind parents of hot car dangers this summer

ROANOKE, Va. – As temperatures set to hover around the 90° mark once again today, local health officials have a reminder for parents- do not leave your child alone in the car, even for a minute.

Experts say cars can reach deadly temperatures in just a matter of minutes. On an 80° day, once the car is turned off and the doors are shut, a car's internal temperature can rise by as much as 10° in the first 10 minutes.

A new study from Arizona State University and the University of California San Diego reveals just how long it takes for cars to reach killer temperatures. The study found on a 100° day it takes just one hour for the car's dashboard to reach 157°. The steering wheel reaches 127° and the seats reach 123° during that same time period.

Parking in the shade doesn't provide much more relief. During that same one hour time frame, the dashboard can reach 118°, the steering wheel reaches 107° and the seats register 105°.

Experts say heatstroke starts to cause permanent damage when a child's body temperature rises above 104°.


Tanya Trevilian, the pediatric trauma coordinator with Carilion Children's Hospital, says kids heat up much faster than adults do and don't release that heat through sweat very well, which means it doesn't take long for serious medical issues to begin.

"It takes a matter of minutes for a car to heat up in weather like this," she says. "So you can go from 90° outside and it can go double or triple that inside of the car. It can get very hot very fast and that can lead to a heat stroke injury which is a medical emergency."

Many parents think leaving a child in a hot car is something that would never happen to them, but it can- especially if you're running errand or switching up the normal routine. The risk increases even further if the child's car seat is facing backwards.

Trevilian says the best way to avoid accidentally leaving your child in the back seat is to create a reminder. Put your purse, cell phone or brief case in the back seat near the child, it's something parents will reach back to grab and see their child before getting out of the car.

If you see a child unattended in a back seat, it's important to act right away. Don't wait for the parents t come back, instead call for help.

As a parent, never leave your child alone in the car, even for a few minutes.

"If you have a smart toddler who can undo themselves from a car seat, even if you leave the air conditioning on, they can reach for ward and put the car in gear or turn the car off and there goes all of the air conditioning with all of the windows up," says Trevilian. "They could potentially lock you out, they could get locked in, it's just not a good situation. So even if you're running in for a few minutes, unstrap them, secure them on your hip and take them in."

Aside from car crashes, heatstroke is the leading cause of death in vehicles for children fourteen and younger.