Why I Sat In My Car On A 103 Degree Day. Like every other parent in North America, I’ve been haunted by the story of little Cooper Harris, who died in his car seat when his father left him there in the Georgia heat last summer. Since then, his father Ross Harris has been charged with murder. This story is unspeakably sad, but it still highlights how terrifyingly dangerous–even fatal–a short time in a hot car can be for a child or pet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as little as 12 minutes is enough time for heat stroke and death. We’re looking at our 10th straight day of 100+ temperatures here in Utah. Last time it hit 103 degrees, I decided to sit in the back seat of my car for 25 minutes. I wanted to understand what it feels like for a child or a pet to endure this kind of mistake. I didn’t do this to punish myself, but I am still haunted by the time I left my twins in the car while I ran into the radio station to pick up some items. Granted, they were parked in the shade, and it was around 70 degrees, windows down for 7-8 minutes. But that was 7-8 minutes too long.
1. It takes 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to go up 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cracking a window open and parking in the shade aren’t sufficient safeguards. (DUH, me!)
3. A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s. A child dies with a 107 degree body temperature.
4. Even if it’s in the 60s outside, your car can still heat up to well above 110 degrees.
5. It only takes a 57-degree outside temperature to cause heatstroke.
6. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly peaks in 10 minutes.
So, with the express disapproval of The Todd, I waited till the high was around 99 degrees. I started with the air conditioning blasting–like we all would when driving–then turned off the car. I started with an interior temperature of 75 degrees, which rose to 100 within 5 minutes. Five.
At Five Minutes: sweating like a goat. Eck. Interior temperature is 100 degrees.
At Ten Minutes: skin is itching, feels like I’m on fire. Interior temperature is 110 degrees. The Todd calls to tell me that he and the kids are enjoying a cool glass of lemonade in the pool. My reaction is not positive.
At Fifteen Minutes: I realize my initial plan of 15 minutes isn’t enough–I’m wearing a tank top and shorts. A child would be strapped into a hot car seat, and a pet would be wearing their “fur coat.” I decide to go for 25 minutes. I’m having trouble texting properly and the words aren’t coming to mind the way I need them to. Interior temperature is 118 degrees.
At Twenty Minutes: my skin is bright red and I’ve stopped sweating. But all I can think about is that I know I’m getting out of here. I have a timer. What does a child endure, wondering where their adult went and not knowing if they’ll come back to save them? Interior temperature is 118 degrees.
At Twenty-Five Minutes: how could I have left my sons in the car? How? What kind of a horrible mother am I? “Oh, it’s just for a minute.” Never. Not ever again. Interior temperature is 118 degrees, and I deserve every degree.
Oh, GREAT. The camera’s thermal protector shut it off at 18.5 minutes. I was enraged, because I stuck it out, fair and square. But it also shows something when even an electronic device is smart enough to exit the situation before I do. The Todd explained what happened at the end of the video the next morning on the show.
So, what did I learn from all of this? Well, this is me after a long, cool bath and 3 glasses of ice water. I still look like a brain-damaged lobster. I had nightmares all night about children crying in cars. And I know this for absolutely certain. I have a safety tool that breaks glass and a roll of duct tape in my car. If I see a child or a pet in a car, I will:
1. Call 911
2. Roll the tape over the window and break it right then. I will not wait.
If you feel like watching the video–which is sweaty and kind of gross–you can find it here.
For some great ideas on how to prevent forgetting about a child in the car, click here.
And finally–what do you think? How do you protect your little people and pets?
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