GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - More than 50 children in the U.S. died from heatstroke after being left in hot cars last year.
Rising temperatures during the summer are one reason why parents must be more alert than ever when driving with children in the back seat.
“It doesn’t take as long as you think it will to build up to a dangerous situation inside a car,” said Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt. “It’s terribly dangerous for young children. Most of the heat increase takes place in the first half hour.”
That rise in temperature is called the greenhouse effect. The fire department used a thermal imaging camera to demonstrate on a WLOX News car. At the time of the test, the temperature in Gulfport was 90 degrees.
“112 (degrees) just shooting at the window here on the outside of the car,” said firefighter Lt. Tim Ishee, pointing the thermal imaging camera at the vehicle. “That’s just the residual heat coming off of the car.”
Ishee opened the car door to record the internal temperature. “We’re looking at 132 (degrees), so a considerable 20 degree difference,” he noted.
Gulfport’s Fire Chief says many hot car deaths happen because distracted parents leave their children behind unintentionally. He noted that some people also make the mistake of leaving their kids in the car while running seemingly quick errands.
“The trouble is, something happens then that five minutes turns into 10, and that 10 turns into a half hour,” said Beyerstedt. “We’ve answered several calls like that. It’s always tragic. No one intends to cause harm to their family in that way.”
Chief Beyerstedt’s number one tip: Don’t get in the habit of leaving children alone in a car.
“You just can’t do it in the first place. I mean, not even for a minute, not even for a couple minutes, because that’s how tragedies happen,” he said.