Preventing unintentional child deaths in hot vehicles - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Preventing unintentional child deaths in hot vehicles this summer

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

We've all heard the warnings about leaving a child or an animal inside a car on a very hot day. With temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees this week, we decided to put it to the test. We left thermometers inside two very similar cars (one with a window cracked open) and monitored them for an hour to see how fast they heated up.

KWWL Meteorologist Mark Schnackenberg said the issue is something to which the National Weather Service pays close attention. He says, on a sunny day, your car acts very much like an oven.

"The sun doesn't heat the air out here in the atmosphere. The sun heats the ground and the ground in turn heats the air. So that's the same situation. But here, the air moves around. In the car the air is confined," explained Schnackenberg.

As the minutes tick by, it's clear that, even in the shade -- and even with the window open -- the temperature inside both cars goes far beyond uncomfortable. It's downright deadly. In fact, the NWS estimates your vehicle will heat up about 35 degrees in just 30 minutes.

"About forty kids a year die because of this. Just imagine the number of pets that die in these incidents," noted Waterloo's Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka.

Nineteen states have laws specifically addressing the crime of leaving a child in a vehicle. In Iowa, officers consider it a violation of the child endangerment law.

"Because this child's life is put in jeopardy. If the child ends up injured, it's a felony. If the child is not injured, it's an aggravated misdemeanor," said Trelka.

Trelka said, most parents are not intentionally leaving their child in a hot car.

"Because we lead such hurried lives, and it's truly an accident, but even if it is an accident, the person can still be held accountable," he said.

As for our experiment, after an hour in the car, both thermometers read more than 115 degrees. With an outdoor temperature of 83 degrees, that was consistent with what the NWS found in its study.

The NWS has an idea for parents of young children: leave something you need, like your wallet or handbag in the backseat with your child. You'll have to grab the item before heading into a store, making it nearly impossible to forget your child is in the car.

The NWS says cracking a window has little or no effect on the temperature inside a car. What does play a factor is your vehicle's interior color. Dark seats or a dark dashboard will heat up much more quickly than light interior on a sunny day.

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