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Car Manufacturers Taking Steps To Prevent Against Heatstroke; But Common Sense Remains the Most Important Factor


Sadly, preventable heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. In the United States, nearly 40 children die of heatstroke in overheated cars every year. This often occurs when children are left unattended in hot cars, an act of gross neglect. According to USA Today, since 1998, 619 children in the United States have died in vehicles from heat stroke. Additionally, USA Today reports that more than 70% of these deaths involved children under the age of two.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heat stroke begins, in both children and adults, when the body passes 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (“NHTSA”), cracking a car’s windows or parking a car in the shade does not make a car significantly cooler. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the warning signs of heat stroke include: hot, red, and/or moist skin, no sweating, strong and rapid pulse or weak pulse, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness.

NHTSA reports document it only takes 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to increase by 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, NHTSA warns that a car can reach an internal temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit even when the outside temperatures are only in the 60s and that heat stroke has occurred when the outside temperature was as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, internal vehicle temperature can have deadly results not only for children, but also for adults left in cars on warm days. However, a child’s body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. Making things even worse, young children of tender years may know what’s happening but be unable to extricate themselves from a deadly situation.

In an effort to help prevent heatstroke, General Motors plans on including sensors in their cars to remind drivers to check the backseat before exiting. These sensors will debut in the new 2017 GMC Acadia and be included in other GMC models later in 2017. Cars that have the sensor will be able to detect whether either of the rear doors were opened within 10 minutes of the car starting. If so, the driver will then get a dashboard notification and five chimes that remind the driver to check the backseat when the driver goes to park and turn off the car.

Given the harsh reality since the advent of cars, that thousands of drivers have left children alone in cars causing them to die from heat exposure, this new feature is a commendable step by automobile manufacturers. That said, the core problem is the ignorance of drivers who leave others, especially young children in cars where dangers abound. These dangers include, but are not limited to, heatstroke.

If you see a child trapped in a car or you see someone about to leave a child alone in a car for a little while, please help. You might save a life!

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