In less than 30 minutes, a car's interior temperature can rise to dangerous and deadly levels.
On Friday morning, the United States Department of Transportation and Health and Human Services held a press conference to announce a nationwide program that will set out to combat child deaths in hot vehicles, according to an article by School Transportation News. The partnership was announced in the middle of another hot summer, when kids are especially susceptible to hyperthermia due to rapid heating of car interiors.
The press conference was hosted by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at George Washington Head Start in Alexandria, Va. They were joined by Leticia Ryan, a doctor from the Children's National Medical Center and Reginald McKinnon, father of a heat stroke victim.
"Today, we're focusing on a danger that is 100 percent preventable: the deadly combination of summer heat and children left alone inside hot cars," said LaHood.
The STN article cited a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that said "heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14." The report added children under four years old are especially vulnerable, and cracking the window as much as two inches does not reduce the risk of hyperthermia for children inside the car.
"This campaign is about giving adults the information and tools they can use to help make sure they don't forget about children in their care, or accidentally leave a sleeping child, too small to be seen in the rear-view mirror, in a van or a bus used in a preschool program," said Sebelius.
At least 49 children died in 2010 because of hyperthermia, according to a report by the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences, and another 33 children died in 2011. During the press conference, LaHood stated that 532 children have died since 1998 because they were left in hot cars. The report also reminds that children can be permanently damaged by heat stroke, even if they aren't killed -- brain injury, blindness, hearing loss and other ailments could occur as well.
An emergency response and rescue demonstration was also held at the press conference, and emergency personnel showed how they respond to a 911 call regarding a child left in a hot car.