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It’s full summer now, and temperatures are rising. Much of the US is experiencing a heatwave right now, and with it will undoubtedly come some accidents involving hot cars. We tend to only think about pets and children when it comes to overheating in a car. However, research shows that your car’s cabin temperature can climb much faster than we might realize, making the threat of overheating present for all of us. Beware hot cars this summer. They are more dangerous than you think. 

Child's Hand on a Car Window might be a signal of a child on the brink of death
Child’s Hand on a Car Window; Could this Child be Trying to Signal They’re in a Hot Car? | Shutterstock

How long can you leave someone in a hot car? 

You should never leave anyone in a hot car with the engine off and the windows up. This is extremely dangerous and, in many places, illegal. The urgency of the warning only increases with children, pets, and elderly people. Dozens of children die every year in America from being left in cars. The Drive says that In 2019, a record 53 children died from overheating in a car. 

According to The Drive, your car’s interior temperature can climb 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. Cars, when left in the direct sunlight, operate more like ovens, or more accurately, greenhouses. The sun’s light streams in through the windows and other surfaces and heats the air inside the cabin. If the windows are up, this heat can become lethal in a matter of minutes, especially depending on the person or animal in the car. 

Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be hot outside for the inside of a car to still reach lethal temps. Even at 70 degrees outside, within 20 minutes, direct sunlight could raise the temperature over 100 degrees. 

Can you leave a kid in a car if the AC is on? 

If a car is running and the air conditioning is on, children are safer from overheating. However, leaving pets, children, or older people in a car is never recommended for any reason, especially when it’s hot out. 

It is important to reiterate that cars can get hot faster than expected. It is imperative that if anyone is left in a car in the heat, the car’s AC is working properly. It is not uncommon to see older cars lose their cool air. 

How long does it take to get heat stroke?

A dog with sunglasses on hangs his head out a car window
A dog with sunglasses on hangs his head out a car window. | HELEN H. RICHARDSON

Heat stroke is easy to get and very dangerous. According to The Mayo Clinic, “a person will suffer heat stroke if their internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees, and prolonged heat stroke can cause permanent organ damage and even death.” 

As with many other things, children and old folks are more susceptible to heat stroke. This means it can happen faster and even at lower temperatures. This is why leaving anyone in a hot car is a bad idea. 

It happens every year. Summer temperatures creep up, and someone thinks, “oh, I’ll just run into the store for 10 seconds.” That brief moment turns into a few moments, then there’s a line, and before you know it, a kid has been in the car for 10 minutes. Lethal heat happens quickly in this scenario. Please pay close attention to high temperatures this summer and stay hydrated, y’all. 


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