The average number of children who die annually from heat stroke, as a result of being left in cars, in the US is around 38. According to some, this seemingly low figure masks the true extent of the problem because many still don’t understand how such deaths can occur. According to campaign group Safe Kids Worldwide, children are particularly at risk of heat stroke when left in vehicles because the temperature inside a car can rise much faster than normal. A car’s temperature can rise by as much as 10°C (50°F) in just 10 minutes. The figures below are available on NoHeatStroke.Org, a website set up and run by meteorologist Jan Null who raises awareness about this issue.
The speed at which a car heats up poses a huge danger to human beings in general since our optimum body temperature is around 37°C (98.6°F) and organs can be at risk if this rises above 40°C (104°F). Children are even more vulnerable because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. Victims are usually younger than two years old, but have been as old as five and not necessarily in incredibly hot conditions. In one case, the outside temperature was as low as 23°C (73°F).
Putting all these factors together can make a hot car a very dangerous place for a child.In 2013, Texas and Florida accounted for 25% of all child car deaths recorded, which could be linked to the hot weather experienced in these states. Around 19 states address this problem, including Florida where a 15-minute limit has been placed on the amount of time a young child can be left in a car, California where leaving a child alone in a car is a traffic violation and Tennessee and Nevada where leaving a child alone with or without the engine running is a crime.
Sadly, children continue to fall victim to such preventable deaths as the risk of hot cars is often underestimated – a truth one mother has learned in a horrific way.In May, 24 year old mother Cynthia Marie Randolph from Texas reported that she rushed to her car and found two-year-old Juliet and 16-month-old Cavanaugh unconscious, after temperatures had reached 98F. Unfortunately, both children died as a result.
The incident happened near Randolph’s home near Lake Weatherford, Texas. Parker County sheriff Mark Arnett cast doubt on Randolph’s initial claims that the children had locked themselves in the car, as she said she found them with her cell phone and car keys.“The question is, can a 2-year-old open a car door and a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old climb inside and lock it,” he asked.As the investigation commenced, Randolph was found to have offered “several variations of the events which led to the death of her children”, until she eventually confessed that she had left them in the car to discipline them after they had entered it without her permission and Juliet had refused to get out.
Randolph explained that she only wanted to “teach them a lesson”, but ended up falling asleep in her home after smoking marijuana – leaving her children inside the car for much longer than she previously planned. Her accidental negligence not only resulted in the unfortunate deaths of Juliet and Cavanaugh, but Randolph is now facing two felony charges of causing serious injury to her children.The deaths of these two Texan children further increase the number of young lives lost in the course of something as mundane as sitting in a car.
These deaths were entirely preventable, and are another sad example of just how dangerous hot cars can be for young children.
It is important to raise awareness about this risk in order to prevent more parents from going through the horrific experience that Randolph and her family are probably living through right now.