Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that, as the sun beats down on a summer day, the interior temperature of a car can reach a stifling 116 degrees Fahrenheit in just one hour after the air conditioning has been turned off. The dashboard can even be too hot to touch, reaching a sweltering 165 degrees.
The study used a model of human heat exchange to estimate how the core temperature of a 2-year old would respond to being closed in the car. Results showed that on average, it takes only one hour for a young child trapped in a car in the sun to reach a core temperature of 104 degrees, thus suffering a potentially fatal injury.
But even parking cars in full shade does not make a big difference. These same body temperatures are reached in just under 2 hours when cars are parked in the shade.
Children trapped inside cars have no way to lose heat, and that’s what drives their core temperatures into dangerous levels. At these core temperatures, even those who survive may sustain permanent brain damage. The team tested 3 different types of cars in sun and shade, and they found that economy cars warmed at the fastest rate, while minivans were the slowest due to relative air volumes.
The team hopes these findings will result in new behavioral and technological interventions that will save children’s lives.
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