Summer Temperatures + Heat Index = Danger Zone especially if an infant, child, or other person is left in the car

Known as the Sunshine State, Florida is a beautiful place to spend the summer. However, with high temperatures and an elevated heat index, the Florida sun can also be very dangerous.One of the biggest sun hazards is the effects it has on automobiles and objects inside it, as the sun can heat up a vehicle to deadly temperatures in a matter of minutes, even when the outside temperature is less than 75 degrees. For instance, studies have shown that when it is 85 degrees, it takes less than 10 minutes for a car’s temperature to reach the triple digits (100s) and less than 30 minutes for it to exceed 120 degrees (https://www.crh.noaa.gov/).

Since 1998, more than 600 children have been killed or severely injured due to heatstroke or heat-related injuries after being left in a vehicle, including 13 deaths this year (https://www.ggweather.com/heat/). Children under the age of two are the ones most commonly affected by heatstroke in a car, because they often fall asleep, cannot talk, or they are not part of the caregiver’s normal routine. Additionally, children’s temperatures rise 3-5 times faster than adults (https://www.kidsandcars.org/).

Nevertheless, anyone can be affected by the dangerous temperatures inside a car, whether it is an elderly individual, adult, adolescent, child, or infant. As such, Columbia County and Lifeguard Ambulance Service would like to provide the citizens and visitors of Columbia County with safety tips in order to prevent these tragedies.

Car Safety Tips:

  1. NEVER leave anyone (child, elderly, pet, etc) in a parked car, no matter what or for how long:
    1. Temperatures rise very quickly in a short amount of time
    2. Rolling down or cracking the windows does not alleviate or decrease the temperature significantly, thus creating a danger zone for the individuals inside
    3. Parking in the shade does not protect the enclosed individuals from the heat
    4. Always check for occupants before locking and leaving your vehicle

  2. Do NOT leave a vehicle unlocked:

    1. Children sometimes think of vehicles as “playgrounds” and may crawl inside to play or hide if a vehicle is unlocked or the door is open. They can then become trapped in the vehicle or fall asleep and become at risk of heatstroke.
    2. Teach kids that vehicles are not play areas
    3. Keep keys out of the reach of children
    4. Always check for occupants before locking and leaving your vehicle

  3. If you see an unattended child in a car:

    1. Look through the window to see if they are in distress
    2. Teach kids that vehicles are not play areas
    3. Keep keys out of the reach of children
    4. Always check for occupants before locking and leaving your vehicle

Parent/Guardian Tips:
Often times, children are left in the car by accident, such as when a parent or guardian is in a hurry or is not following their daily routine. Regardless, it is important to create a safety check system to assure that this does not happen to you.

  1. Establish a system to remind you that the child is in the back seat:
    1. Place a cell phone, purse, briefcase, or even one shoe that you would need at your next stop in the backseat next to the child.
    2. Keep a stuffed animal in the unoccupied child seat. When the child is in the seat, keep the stuffed animal in the front seat, so you are visually reminded that the child is in the rear seat.
    3. If necessary, set an alarm or alert on your phone for a daily audio reminder about checking the car.

  2. Request the childcare provider to give you a call if your child does not show up at the usual time
  3. Verify that someone brought the baby or child inside the house when returning home as a family
  4. Always check the backseat prior to leaving a vehicle unattended

The Florida heat can be very dangerous, especially for anyone left inside a vehicle. Always be alert when you are transporting individuals, especially infants, children, and elderly adults.
If you see a child unattended in a car, call 911 for help immediately.