Auto-induced hyperthermia – Click above to watch the video after the jump

The statistics are startling. On average, 30 to 40 children die each year in the U.S. due to hyperthermia from being left in a hot car for too long. There have been 462 deaths since 1998, and there were seven deaths between June 13 and June 20 of this year alone.

General Motors is working with Safe Kids USA to increase awareness of the potentially deadly problem. According to experts, the ambient temperature of a vehicle on an 80-degree day can reach over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in just 20 minutes. On a really hot, sunny day the temperature can soar beyond 130 degrees in a matter of minutes. And since a child's body temperature rises at three-to-five times the rate of the typical adult, a child can succumb to heat stroke in a matter of minutes. As you'd expect, the problem is especially prevalent in warm weather states – Texas has the most hyperthermia deaths since 1998 with 64, followed by Florida with 50 casualties.

Most deaths occur because the driver simply forgets that their child is in the car, leaving them in a parking lot while they go to work or shopping. GM and Safe Kids USA have several useful tips to prevent leaving your child in the car. Among the best ideas are leaving a briefcase or phone in the back seat, setting a reminder with your email or phone to drop a child off at daycare and ask the daycare provider to contact you in the event that a child doesn't arrive at a scheduled time. And of course, if you see a child left alone in a hot car, call #911 immediately. Hit the jump to read GM's press release, which includes plenty of information on how to prevent a tragic situation from happening to you. There is also a short video after the jump that shows just how quickly a car can heat up.

[Source: General Motors]
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* One Deadly Week Leading into Summer Claims Seven Young Lives
* GM working with Safe Kids USA to increase 'Never Leave Your Child Alone' awareness

DETROIT – The arrival of summer is a reminder of a seasonal danger that takes dozens of young lives annually – children being left unattended in hot cars.

In the seven days from June 13-20, seven children around the country died of hyperthermia after being left in a hot car or after playing in one and being trapped inside.

According to research by Jan Null, a Certified Consulting Meteorologist who spent 25 years with the National Weather Service, 462 children – an average of 37 per year – have died after being left in hot cars since 1998. A full rundown of statistics and other information can be found here.

"There just isn't that much change in this from year to year," Null said. "That's probably because when these incidents happen, they are infrequent in a given community."

In fact, the 17 known deaths through June 22 occurred in 10 different states. There were six in Texas, two in Missouri and two in Tennessee. Despite being one of 15 states with a law against leaving children unattended in vehicles, Texas has the most cumulative deaths by far – 64. The next closest is Florida with 50 recorded deaths. Only four of 50 states have no recorded cases.

Chevrolet, General Motors and Safe Kids USA continue to promote education and awareness through the Never Leave Your Child Alone program.

"A child's core body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, making them more susceptible to heat stroke – even on a day with mild temperatures," said Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids USA. "Our goal is to raise awareness of just how dangerous it is to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, as well as to remind parents and caregivers of important safety precautions they can take to avoid this preventable tragedy."

GM and Safe Kids USA urge all adults to take the following steps:

* Call 911 if they see a child unattended in a vehicle.
* Never leave children alone in a vehicle - even for a minute.
* Set your cell phone or Blackberry reminder to be sure you drop your child off at daycare.
* Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or whatever is to be carried from the car on the floor in front of the child in a back seat. This forces the adult to open the back door and observe the child before leaving.
* Set your computer "Outlook" program to ask you, "Did you drop off at daycare today?"
* Have a plan with your child care provider to call if your child does not arrive when expected.
* Check cars and trunks first if a child goes missing.

"We have looked at a range of technologies to provide a warning to drivers that a sleeping infant or young child might be in the back seat, but we are convinced more than ever that this issue is best addressed by education and awareness," GM executive director of Safety Jeff Boyer said.

Null agrees.

"Keeping that message in front of the public, especially when temperatures are normal or just above normal, is critically important," he said. "We don't see as much of this when temperatures are really high."

The majority of child hyperthermia cases (51 percent) are caused by children being accidentally left behind. About 30 percent are unattended children who find their way into an unlocked vehicle and are overcome by heat and 18 percent are cases where parents or caregivers knowingly leave a child unattended.

The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively "transparent" to the sun's shortwave radiation and are warmed little. However this shortwave energy does heat objects that it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or car seat can easily reach temperatures of 180 to more than 200 degrees F.

Objects such as a dashboard, steering wheel and child seat heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off long-wave radiation, which rapidly warms the air trapped inside a vehicle.

That heating can occur rapidly. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes and 45 to 50 degrees in one to two hours. Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature reaches 104 F and core body temperature of 107 degrees F is considered lethal as cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.


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