What you need to know about kids and hot cars this summer

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The temperatures are heating up as summer rolls in and something important to keep in mind is to never leave your child in a car unsupervised. We spoke with Jan Null, a Certified Consulting and Research Meteorologist at San Jose State University about what you need to know about kids and hot vehicles this season.

“The real quick bottom line is that cars can be very deadly places,” said Null, who said kids should never be around cars alone, regardless of temperature.

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But when it’s hot outside heat is a dangerous factor especially for young children, and Null said cars can get much hotter than even the outside temperature.

“They heat up very rapidly. That was one of the things from the research that I did about 10 years ago was that we found that even within 15 minutes a car can get to a deadly temperature on even a relatively mild temperature day in the summertime,” said Null. “We can see temperature rises in ten minutes of 19 degrees and in 20 minutes of 29 degrees over whatever the outside air temperature is.”

He said small children’s body temperatures rise much more quickly than an adults.

“So the clinical definition for heat stroke is 104 degrees and so that’s sort of the temperature that we use as being a critical one for the air temperature,” Null said.

He said there have been fatalities on days that might seem cooler at around 60 degrees.

Null said there are three main categories of situations that lead to the deaths of children in hot cars.

“The first category which is about 54 percent of the cases, is where a child is accidentally forgotten in a car. A parent or caregiver gets distracted and the child is not dropped off at daycare or not dropped off at school,” Null said.

He said creating a reminder system is a great way to avoid accidents and keep your kids safe.

“One of the slogans from one of the agencies is ‘look before you lock’ and so always be actively looking in and around your car,” Null said. “Also put a reminder in the back seat area. It may be your purse or briefcase. A double bonus is put your cell phone back there that way you’re not talking and driving at the same time.”

Another danger is children getting into vehicles on their own.

“Almost another 30 percent of the cases are children get into cars on their own, cars parked in the driveway, on the street, or someplace nearby and they’re getting in maybe for a place to play, a play to find some quiet time or something like that, and they get overcome by the heat and die,” Null said.

He said a simple solution to that is to always keep cars locked even if they are in the garage.

“The final area, which is a little bit less that 20 percent, are where a parent or caregiver makes a conscious decision to leave a child in a car while they go do something else. Not necessarily to do the child harm, but they think it’s ok to leave the child in the car while they go to a casino, or racetrack, or go shopping, or get their hair done,” said Null.

All reminders to keep kids safe this summer.