Studies finds that hot cars can become deadly in as little as an hour for children and pets trapped inside.
Kansas police are investigating the death of a 3-month-old girl who was left inside a hot car for several hours last weekend.
Investigators said the child’s mother called for help around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, but the child was not breathing and died at the scene, according to KAKE-TV. This is the 11th child who has died in a hot car this year, according to KidsandCars.org, a non-profit safety organization, following a record 52 deaths last year.
The mother told authorities she had returned from a baby shower around 12:30 p.m. and forgot the baby in the car when she went inside to take a nap, KAKE reported.
“She had commented that she had been very tired,” said Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet, according to KAKE. “She’d been up some of the night before off and on. Don’t know if it was with children or for what reason, but she felt like she needed a nap. She laid down about 12:30 p.m. and slept ’til about 4 o’clock.”
He added, “It is a tragedy. A three-month-old child dying, whether it be in the hands of a perpetrator or in a car, is still a child.”
‘Trapped’ in an oven: Study: Hot cars can hit deadly, oven-like temperatures in as little as one hour
The baby’s death comes a week after 11-month-old Joseline Eichelberger fell victim to the same fate in Missouri after being left inside a car for 15 hours, police said. Both of her parents were charged this week with second-degree involuntary manslaughter in her death, according to FOX 2 in St. Louis.
KidsAndCars.org recommends that parents check the back door of their vehicle every time they park to ensure that no one is left behind, and that they leave an essential item, such as their phone or handbag, in the back seat to help enforce the habit.
Jan Null, an adjunct professor of meteorology at San Jose State University, told USA TODAY earlier this year that heatstroke is the leading cause of death in vehicles for children ages 14 and under.
Temperatures inside can reach as high as 130 degrees, even when external temperatures are in the 70s or 80s, as direct sunlight heats objects inside the car. The body’s natural cooling methods, like sweating, begin to falter once the body’s core temperature reaches around 104 degrees. Death can occur at 107 degrees.
Children are especially vulnerable in hot cars. They have difficulty getting out of cars on their own, and their respiratory and circulatory systems cannot handle heat as well as those of adults. More than 50% of cases of a child dying in a hot car involve a parent or caregiver who forgot the child inside the vehicle.
July is typically the deadliest month for children in cars, with a record 16 deaths in 1999, Null said.
Forgetting a child inside a car can happen to anyone, Arizona State University psychologist Gene Brewer told USA TODAY last year.
“Memory failures are remarkably powerful, and they happen to everyone,” Brewer said. “There is no difference between gender, class, personality, race or other traits. Functionally, there isn’t much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car.”
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