Unthinkable accidents: Parents’ worst nightmare in a hot car

38 children in Virginia have died in hot cars since 1990

ROANOKE, Va. – Leaving your kid in a hot car — no one thinks it’s going to happen to them, until it does.

“It unfortunately could happen to anyone at anywhere at any time,” Manager of Pediatric Trauma Services at Carilion Tanya Trevilian said.

She said it’s easy to judge, but most of the time, leaving a kid in a hot car is an accident, especially when there’s a change in routine.

“These instances happen to everyday folks. They don’t have any intent to harm their child. They just don’t necessarily think, or they forgot. And that’s not hard to do in today’s distracted world,” Trevilian said.

And children’s bodies are different than adults.

“In a hot car, their body temperature is going to rise three to five times faster than an adult’s,” Trevilian said.

We wanted to see just how hot it gets when someone is left in a hot car — so we put it to the test.

10 News Reporter Abbie Coleman took an infrared thermometer, a stopwatch, and saw how long she could last in the heat.”

The dashboard temperature when she first got in was 133.5 degrees, five minutes later, it was 144.5 degrees. That’s 11 degrees more in just five minutes.

Children dying in hot cars happens more often than you might think.

Kids and Car Safety is an organization advocating for more regulations and technological advancements when it comes to car safety.

They said since 1990, 38 children in Virginia have died in hot cars.

But as Director Amber Rollins tells us, that’s not always because they’re forgotten.

“They get in on their own, and then they can’t get back out. These are usually kiddos between one to five years old,” Rollins said.

Rollins said they’re working legislatively to require technology that senses when a child is in a car, and can notify authorities, or an emergency contact.

She said while some cars have technology that mimics this when a trip ends, it’s not actually using sensors, and doesn’t always help.

“Everyone is fooled by the functionality of it. So if you stop for gas somewhere, and you don’t open your back door again, you’re not going to get that alert,” Rollins said.

Kids and Car Safety has resources for parents and guardians on safety in and around hot cars. You can find those here.

About the Author

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.

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