Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.5 Transportation

6.5.2 Transportation Safety Interior Temperature of Vehicles

The interior of vehicles used to transport children should be maintained at a temperature comfortable to children. When the vehicle’s interior temperature exceeds 82°F and providing fresh air through open windows cannot reduce the temperature, the vehicle should be air-conditioned. When the interior temperature drops below 65°F and when children are feeling uncomfortably cold, the interior should be heated. To prevent hyperthermia, all vehicles should be locked when not in use, head counts of children should be taken after transporting to prevent a child from being left unintentionally in a vehicle, and children should never be intentionally left in a vehicle unattended.
Some children have problems with temperature variations. Whenever possible, opening windows to provide fresh air to cool a hot interior is preferable before using air conditioning. Over-use of air conditioning can increase problems with respiratory infections and allergies. Excessively high temperatures in vehicles can cause neurological damage in children (1).

Children’s bodies overheat three to five times faster than
adults because the hypothalamus regions of their brains, which control body temperature, are not as developed (1).

About thirty-seven children die every year from hyperthermia when they’re left in cars and the cars quickly heat up. Even with comfortable temperatures outdoors, the temperature in an enclosed car climbs rapidly.

Temperature increase inside a car with an outside temperature of 80°F (elapsed time in minutes) (2):

  1. After ten minutes: 99°F inside car;
  2. After twenty minutes: 109°F;
  3. After thirty minutes 114°F;
  4. After forty minutes: 118°F;
  5. After fifty minutes: 120°F;
  6. After sixty minutes: 123°F.
In geographical areas that are prone to very cold or very hot weather, a small thermometer should be kept inside the vehicle. In areas that are very cold, adults tend to wear very warm clothing and children tend to wear less clothing than might actually be required. Adults in a vehicle, then, may be comfortable while the children are not. When air conditioning is used, adults might find the cool air comfortable, but the children may find that the cool air is uncomfortably cold. To determine whether the interior of the vehicle is providing a comfortable temperature to children, a thermometer should be used and children in the vehicle should be asked if they are comfortable. Non-verbal children and infants should be assessed by an adult for signs of hypo- or hyperthermia. Signs of hypothermia include: cold skin, very low energy, and may be non-responsive. Young infants do not shiver when cold. Signs of hyperthermia include: dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations (2).
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  1. Guard, A., S. S. Gallagher. 2005. Heat related deaths to young children in parked cars: An analysis of 171 fatalities in the United States, 1995-2002. Injury Prevention 11:33-37.
  2. McLaren, C., J. Null, J. Quinn. 2005. Heat stress from enclosed vehicles: Moderate ambient temperatures cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles. Pediatrics 116: e109-12.