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Hot car deaths: New study shows danger of heat and leaving kids in cars

Posted at 5:21 AM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 11:10:21-04

A brand new study is showing just how quickly things can turn deadly in hot cars.

The study was done in partnership with Arizona State University and the University of California San Diego. 

Researchers used pairs of three different types of vehicles: two small economy cars, two small minivans and two midsize sedans. They parked one of each vehicle in the sun and the other in the shade for an hour over the course of 10 days. Afterward the hour, they checked the heat of the seats, steering wheels and dashboards to compare. 

The study found that bigger vehicles took longer to heat up than the compact/economy cars.

Researchers also looked at what the effects would be on the health of a child stuck inside the vehicle. It's something no study has looked at before. 

They used the data of a hypothetical 2-year-old boy's body temperature. Researchers say a child trapped in a hot car could start to show signs of serious heat illness within an hour. Internal damage can start at 104 degrees. 


Researchers emphasize that memories can fail and even the most loving parents can sometimes get distracted, especially if their routine is broken up. 

Since the study was released, safety advocates are calling for changes in vehicles. Members with KidsAndCars.Org are demanding auto manufacturers put warning systems in place to prevent child deaths in hot cars.

While more technology is in the works, researchers say people shouldn't rely solely on that. ASU Climatologist Nancy Selover says, "Anything that technology does to help you is a reminder to help you. It's not an, 'Oh, I don't have to worry about it because now the technology will make sure it doesn't happen.' That's not necessarily the case but anything that will help is always good." 

Even if a car is parked in the shade, the study shows things can turn deadly in under two hours.