‘The Sizzling Schnitzel:’ A startling summer warning for parents

Science and Health

United Hatzalah released a YouTube video this week starring founder Eli Beer cautioning parents against leaving children in hot cars and driving the point home by cooking Beer’s own schnitzel recipe using the heat of a closed car.

In the video, Beer, pretends to be hosting a cooking show until he reaches the frying stage of schnitzel preparation and discovers that his oven is broken. So, he goes out to his car in the 95F Jerusalem heat (35C) and leaves the frying pan with oil and breaded chicken in the back seat. He comes back a short time later to discover that the chicken has fried nicely, and the car has heated up to 135F (57C).

“The video,” United Hatzalah explained in a statement, “serves as a powerful reminder of the life-threatening consequences that can result from negligence with regard to leaving children in cars.”

Studies, according to Israel’s Health Ministry, have shown that infants and toddlers are more quickly and adversely impacted by excessive temperatures than adults. What is more, children’s body temperatures rise three to five times more quickly than those of adults.

A young child is seen sleeping in a car (Illustrative). (credit: PXHERE)

This natural penchant for rising temperature is deadly when combined with the fact that cars’ temperatures can reach 50C (122F) within 20 minutes and 65.5C (150F) after 40 minutes, per the Health Ministry. Even if a window is left open slightly, the temperature inside the car will still inevitably rise to deadly temperatures.

How does a child end up unattended in a hot car?

The Health Ministry identified several reasons a child might be left alone in a hot car: 

  • Parents, while driving to work, forget their child in the car and only realize hours later that they have done so
  • Parents purposely leave kids in the car, perhaps to perform errands they thought they could finish quickly while underestimating the risk they were taking
  • Children are left unattended in commercial passenger vehicles where they fall asleep and the driver is unaware of them
  • Children enter an abandoned parked car to play in it and are subsequently unable to get out

The State of Israel enacted legislation to protect children against this risk in 1977. The Penal Law of 1977 states: “Anyone who … puts the child’s life in danger will face a three-year prison sentence; if they did it negligently, they will face a one-year prison sentence; and if they did it with the intent to abandon the child, they will face a two-year prison sentence.” In addition, drivers of commercial vehicles used to transport children (i.e. schoolbuses) are required by law to search the vehicle once the children have been dropped off. 

For parents, a variety of phone applications are available to help remind them to keep their children safe from the heat of a parked car. They can also purchase physical sensors which install easily inside their private vehicles to notify the driver that there is a child in the car who must be attended to.

“I’m urging all of us,” United Hatzalah’s Eli Beer concluded in his YouTube video, “to remember our children. Do not leave them in the car even for one second. Have a safe summer.”