Locked in the heat

2015-07-30 08:16
MSc Agrometeorology student Stha Luthuli sets up equipment to measure the temperatures the inside of a car reaches.

MSc Agrometeorology student Stha Luthuli sets up equipment to measure the temperatures the inside of a car reaches. (Ian Carbutt)

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IT’S a 20-degree day in Pietermaritzburg, but inside your car, the temperature is rapidly reaching 49 degrees with your child inside, as you pop in to the shop for 10 minutes.

With barely a breath of air making its way into the boiling car through a slightly open window, temperatures have already reached dangerous levels inside the car, running a high risk of causing dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion for any occupants.

University of KwaZulu-Natal MSc ­Agrometeorology student Stha Luthuli has spent the last year-and-a-half running tests on the societal impacts of adverse weather, focusing on the extreme temperatures on the inside of a car.

Luthuli first began her research in February last year after the eight deaths in December 2013 during the RTI’s fitness test in Alexander Park.

“I was researching human comfort when my adviser, Professor Michael Savage, suggested I incorporate the aftermath of the 2013 fitness test where eight people died.

“I started looking at the micro-climates of cars and found previous studies on this and the results were shocking,” said Luthuli.

With measurements of temperature taken from the boot of the car, the back seats, the front seats and the inside of the car during the month of March, Luthuli said the results showed temperatures could reach up to 65,5 degrees in the front of the car with the outside temperature at 34 degrees.

“The front seats experience the most heat. Last year in March, we recorded the front seat at a temperature of 73 degrees.

“When it was a 20-degree day outside, we found the back seat of the car reached 49 degrees. That is too hot for anyone to sit in.”

Luthuli said based on the photographs and third party evidence from the case where two young children where locked in their parents’ car outside Liberty Midlands Mall two weeks ago, she estimated that they were subjected to a temperature of around 46 degrees while waiting for the parents to come out of the mall.

“Here in Pietermaritzburg when the relative humidity is 40% and it is 26 degrees outside, the university’s Agrometeorology site releases a warning of caution for the possibility of heat-related illness.

“In a car, temperatures reach way beyond that and children are much more susceptible to heat compared to adults and therefore have a much higher risk of suffering heat exhaustion or dehydration.”

According to Luthuli’s data, cooler days are not exempt from high temperatures in the car and leaving your child in the car on a cooler day can prove just as dangerous as leaving a child in the car on a hot day.

Pietermaritzburg SPCA senior inspector Rose Stafford said animals were affected just as adversely by the heat in a car as children were.

“A hot car is not a dog-friendly environment. Temperatures sky-rocket in a car and dogs, like children, can suffer from severe heatstroke and in some cases, even death, from sitting in a locked car.

“If you love your dog, leave them at home. It is not in a dog’s best interest to sit in a hot, locked car,” she said.

Stafford said the SPCA would investigate any allegations of animals being locked in cars and encouraged people to phone the SPCA as soon as they sighted a dog locked in a car.

She also encouraged people to photograph the dog in the car and take down the car’s licence plate in case the SPCA arrived after the car had left.

“We will definitely investigate anyone who has left their dog in a hot car. The SPCA totally disapproves of such behaviour.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  heat

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