Burning pizza video warns how summer heat turns cars into ovens

In public safety clip, celebrity chef highlights dangers of leaving children in parked vehicles; 16 kids have died this way in Israel since 2008

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Israeli celebrity chef Haim Cohen in public safety video for Beterem – Safe Kids Israel (YouTube/Beterem)
Israeli celebrity chef Haim Cohen in public safety video for Beterem – Safe Kids Israel (YouTube/Beterem)

Israeli celebrity chef Haim Cohen and Beterem – Safe Kids Israel have cooked up a new public safety video reminding adults of the dangers of leaving children in cars — especially during the intensely hot summer

The video came out just as an early heatwave (the second in a week) oppressed the country, and reports came in of the summer’s first cases of parents leaving their children behind in cars.

A father in Petah Tikva forgot to remove his toddler daughter from a car when he switched to another to drive to work Wednesday. The girl, less than two years old, was left in the car in the parking lot of her family’s home and was only discovered when her teacher called her mother two hours later asking why the girl was not at daycare. The girl was rescued from the car, which was fortunately parked in the shade, and only slightly harmed. She was taken to Schneider Children’s Medical Center, where she was kept for observation.

In another incident, a mother accidentally locked her baby daughter in her car in Ramat Gan. The mother called emergency services for help, but in the meantime a passerby smashed the windshield to extract the baby, who was in good condition and did not require medical attention.

Summer may be all about fun in the sun, but the leaving of children in vehicles with interiors that quickly reach fatal temperatures is no joke. According to information provided The Times of Israel by Beterem, a child-safety NGO, 349 children were left alone in cars between 2008 and 2015. Of these, 16 died.

The vast majority (84%) of the children left behind in cars were between the ages of 0 and 4. The kids were most commonly left in private vehicles (84%), but they were also forgotten on school buses, public buses, and even Jerusalem’s light rail.

It is very easy for children to succumb to heat stress and hyperthermia (caused by a body temperature 40.5° Celsius — 104° Fahrenheit — or higher) when left inside a car during the summer. Research conducted by General Motors shows that the interior of a car that had previously been air conditioned but was then parked in the sun at 35° Celsius rose to 50° within 20 minutes, and 65.5° after 40 minutes. Hyperthermia can occur even on cooler days, as it only takes one hour for the temperature inside a closed car to reach 47° on a day when the outside temperature is 22°.

The safety video with Cohen quickly captured the Israeli public’s attention. In its first 20 hours it was shared more than 37,000 times on YouTube and several thousand times from Cohen’s Facebook page. In the video, the chef gives a lesson on how to cook in your car. “It’s easy, simple and sizzling,” he says.

‘in the summer, a car is exactly like an oven’

Cohen prepares a pizza and then puts it in his car, leaving it there for 30 minutes. When he checks on it after half an hour, it is beyond cooked; it is burned to a crisp.

“Dear friends, in the summer, a car is exactly like an oven,” he says. “Check carefully that no child is left in the backseat.”

According to a Beterem spokesman, these viral videos have raised consciousness in Israel about this crucial safety issue. He noted that this video is unusually popular, based on how quickly and widely it is being shared — including by public figures such as MK Tzipi Livni, who put it on her Facebook page.

“We also know there is more awareness of this subject because there are people are trying to tackle the problem by developing smartphone apps,” the spokesman said.

Beterem provides tips to parents to help remember that children are in the backseat. It recommends that parents leave a purse or briefcase in the backseat next to the child, set an alarm on their phone for the approximate time they expect to end the car trip, or establish a habit of calling their spouse to check in at the end of every car ride.

Beterem also warns parents not to use their mobile phones in the car (even when parked), as they can be distracting. Finally, parked cars should never be left unlocked in parking lots, so that playing children cannot open the doors, climb in, and accidentally get locked inside.

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