Hot Car Becomes Oven for Baby Left in Car


On August 20, 2010, the teenage aunt of an 18-month-old child was arrested in Norco, CA, for “investigation of felony child endangerment” after leaving the infant in a hot car for about 10 to 15 minutes in a parking lot.

The outside temperature was around 90 degrees and, although she rolled the windows down about two inches, the baby was “…lethargic, sweating profusely and warm to the touch,” according to the Riverside County deputies who responded.

We often read about dogs dying from being locked in closed/hot cars; and occasionally we hear the same about a child. Just how common is this?

On June 25, 2010, CBS News reported, “…18 children have died of hyperthermia since the beginning of the year, with eight deaths reported since June 13.” That’s the largest number of fatalities for this period in a decade, according to experts.

Danial Karnes of AAA Oklahoma explains, “In ten minutes a car can heat up 19 degrees.”  “The temperature inside a car can stay close to 30 degrees higher than outside the car. It's proof that leaving a child in a car can be deadly.” In the same report, nurse Susan West explains, “Their body temperature heats up five times faster than an adult and their sweat glands aren't fully developed until they're at least six-months-old…They're heating up faster, they're dehydrating faster."

Karnes  says sometimes people become forgetful because of things like a schedule change.  He also reminds pet owners that it's just as dangerous for dogs to be left in a hot car as it is for children.

So, forgetting you have a child or a pet in a car could be blamed on too much stress or an overcrowded schedule.  But in the case of 19-year-old  Latoya Moreland in Norco, who left her niece safely strapped into her car seat and lowered the windows two inches before running into a market, could it have just been a lack of knowledge about heat factors?

The California Driver Handbook contains a section which reminds drivers, “It is illegal to leave a child six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle. Be aware if:  Weather conditions or other conditions present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety.   Example: Leaving a child in a closed vehicle on a very hot day.”

Some of the most helpful information on how temperatures inside a vehicle rise on a hot day, even with the windows racked, is available

Deborah Knaan, Animal Cruelty Case Coordinator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, just announced the second annual “Dogs in Hot Cars” campaign and offers a poster that shows a little dog sitting in an oven and states, “Hot Oven, Hot Car—it’s the same thing.”

Do we need a poster depicting an infant sitting in an oven to create the public awareness that will save babies and small children from being left in hot cars?


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