Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Heat and Car Safety Doesn't Just Apply to Summer

With nothing but sunshine Tuesday afternoon, I wanted to bring up an important topic.  One we often think of during the hot and humid summer months - car and heat safety.  Yes, it's more dangerous as the outside temperature climbs, but the inside of a car can still get very hot even when it feels 'comfortable' outside in the spring and fall.

The inside of a car acts just like a greenhouse, trapping the sun's shortwave radiation heating objects inside the car.  Those objects then give off longwave radiation, also heating the inside of the car.  Think of how warm your car feels even on a sunny, winter day.  It's cold outside, but the inside of your car feels about 15 to 20 degrees warmer.

So even though our temperatures this week won't be quite as warm as the 80's, 70 degree weather is hot enough to warm the inside of your car close to 100 degrees in just 20-30 minutes.  That type of heat is very dangerous to children and pets.

Below are a few examples of heat deaths during the winter, spring and fall months (data from the National Weather Service):

Hyperthermia deaths aren't confined to summer months. They also happen during the spring and fall. Below are just a few of MANY tragedies.
  • Honolulu, HI, March: A 3-year-old girl died when the father left her in a child seat for 1.5 hours while he visited friends in a Waikiki apartment building. The outside temperature was only 81 degrees.
  • North Augusta, SC, April: A mother left her a 15-month-old son in a car. He was in a car for 9 hours while his mom went to work. She is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.
  • Greenville, TX, December: A 6-month-old boy died after being left in a car for more than 2 hours by his mother. She was charged with murder. The temperature rose to an unseasonably warm 81 degrees on that day.
Adults also susceptible to hyperthermia in vehicles. On July 12, 2001, a man died of heat stroke after falling asleep in his car with the windows rolled up in the parking lot of a supermarket in Hinds County, MS.

So even though it may 'feel' comfortable outside doesn't mean it's going to be comfortable inside your car on a sunny day!

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