As a country, we have been warned to never let a child wait in the car, as if merely waiting briefly in a parked car leads to death.
Fortunately, a 2010 study published in Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology looked at the actual circumstances surrounding the deaths of kids in non-moving cars. (Recall that the most dangerous place for a child in America is a MOVING car. In 2007, 36 children died of heatstroke in cars, while 905 died in crashes. Maybe we should criminalize driving?)
So here’s the stat that we should remember:
From 1999 to 2007, 231 MVRCHF [Motor vehicle-related child hyperthermia fatalities] were identified. Children were left unattended in >80 percent of cases, 25 percent of victims were playing at the time of death, and 60 percent were male. On average, the core body temperature was 107.2 degrees F after being left inside the vehicle for an average of 4.6 hours.
Note: 4. 6 HOURS is not how long it takes a mom to get a rotisserie chicken, or run into the gas station, or even the 15 minutes it can take to break into an accidentally locked car. This week brought the story of a Kenosha, WI, mom arrested for letting her kids wait in the car for 9 minutes. The oldest kid was 7 — old enough to open a door if it gets too hot.
Can we please remember the 4.6 hour stat, rather than screaming at (or arresting, or jailing, or electronically monitoring) any parent who makes her decisions based on reality, not hysteria, and allows her kid to wait in the car for a short time in non-lethal circumstances?