Vidant Health’s Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program (ECIPP) partnered with Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, the Pitt County Health Department and Greenville Fire-Rescue to educate community members about the dangers children, senior adults and pets can face in a hot car.
ECIPP Coordinator Ellen Walston said five children have already died in the United States this year from being left in a vehicle on warm days. Since 1998, when tracking began for these deaths, there have been 888 deaths across the country.
“Temperatures rise so quickly in a car and when a car is enclosed,” Walston said. “There is a myth that if you crack a window, the temperature will be reduced and that really does not happen. They heat up so quickly and we actually have a way to measure that today, just to show you how quickly cars can heat.”
This exercise took place on a 90-degree day. The temperature inside a parked car rose to 110 degrees within 10 minutes and over 120 degrees within 15 minutes.
Walston said while the risk is still high for seniors and pets, the majority of deaths that occur are in children under 2 years old. Children have less body surface area, so they are not able to cool themselves as quickly as adults and most of these children cannot verbalize if they are too hot.
In 53 percent of cases, a child is forgotten in the car by a parent or caregiver – often because that person is out of their daily routine. Walston said leaving a reminder for yourself can save a life.
“We always want to make sure that you have some type of reminder for yourself that the child is in the car because we do want the child to be in the rear seat,” Walston said. “If you can put your purse, a briefcase, your wallet, something in the backseat to remind you. We also have plenty of alarms on our phones and other devices that we use – just set an alarm. Particularly if it’s out of your normal routine.”
This reminder came at an important time as more people are out and traveling and running errands away from the house this year as COVID-19 restrictions are loosened and routines have changed.
Walston said now is the time to be vigilant if you are traveling with children, a senior adult or pets — or if you see one in a hot car.
“We always want a bystander to act and that means you need to take action right away,” Walston said. “So many times people are concerned about breaking a window, if they would be responsible. We ask you to take action, we ask that you immediately call 911. Please don’t wait to see if someone else will take action. We never want them left alone in a car – even for one minute.”