Heat stroke continues to be the leading cause of non-highway-related deaths for kids ages 14 and under.
It didn’t take long for third-year NFL star Tyrann Mathieu to call it quits. Just eight minutes total. The Arizona Cardinals cornerback recently participated in a public service campaign for PETA, locking himself inside a sweltering SUV for the better part of eight minutes in 90-degree heat. After 480 seconds, the social experiment was over; Mathieu was out the door and looking visibly shaken at how hot the temperature registered. For the record, it reached upwards of 120 degrees, hot enough to bring an elite athlete to his knees. Afterward, in an interview with ESPN, Mathieu said he was pleased at the attention the video had garnered, calling it a “no-brainer” to participate. He also said that he was “extremely surprised” at the reaction, an acknowledgement of how quickly word had spread on social media and elsewhere. Even more surprising might be the surprise.
Mathieu’s video, which currently has been seen by more than 2 million people on YouTube and shared over 69,000 times on Facebook, was meant as a reminder to pet owners, specifically, though it could just as easily have applied to parents with young kids. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that heat stroke is the leading cause of non-highway-related deaths for kids ages 14 and under. On average, close to 40 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Just last week a woman was videotaped smashing the window of parked car to retrieve an infant that had been left inside with no ventilation. That video also went viral. Here in the Chicago suburbs, a seven-month-old was left inside a hot car for two hours before being rescued. The baby could have ended up a statistic.
If you take the word of Jan Null, a researcher at San Jose State University, the average number of child heatstroke fatalities every year since 1998 is 37. Of the 637 child heatstroke deaths since ’98, 53% of children were “forgotten” by the caregiver.
Venture over to KidsAndCars.org and you’ll see a fact sheet with even more distressing news:
- Cracking the windows does not help slow the heating process OR decrease the maximum temperature
- 80% of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes
- Children have died from heatstroke in cars in temps as low as 60 degrees
- A child’s body overheats 3-5 times faster than an adult body
- In an overwhelming majority of child vehicular heatstroke deaths, it was a loving, responsible parent that unknowingly left the child
The Mathieu video is significant on several fronts, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. These social experiments provide an initial shift in safety awareness, and understandably so, but the fact remains: these cases happen too often and too frequently. It shouldn’t take a public service campaign, boasting a high-profile celebrity, to bring the consequences back to the fore. Lawyers continuously litigate these types of safety cases involving parents, caretakers and others who act negligently. It’s tragic because it’s avoidable.
One of the world’s best athletes can only stand up to eight minutes of intense heat. It’s pretty obvious that it’s much more dangerous for an infant, a child or even a pet. We don’t need a viral video to tell us what we already know.