Heatstroke Death a Risk to Children in Hot Cars

Tips for preventing warm-weather tragedies

With warm weather comes tragic cases of children being left in hot cars and dying from heatstroke. About 38 kids die each year from vehicular heatstroke, according to KidsAndCars.org and NoHeatStroke.org.

These hot-car tragedies often occur when parents or caregivers are stressed, when there is a change in the driver’s routine, or when there is a sleeping baby in the back that a parent or caregiver forgets is in the car. Some knowingly leave their children “just for a minute,” not realizing how quickly the temperature in a car can rise to dangerous levels. Even if it is only 70° F outside, a car can quickly heat to more than 120° F.

More on Heatstroke

Vehicle manufacturers have integrated technology that reminds the driver to check the rear seat if the feature suspects a child or pet could be onboard, based on the rear doors being opened before departure. Goodbaby, maker of Evenflo and Cybex products, has incorporated child-detecting technologies into the car seat itself.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body and is not mature enough to efficiently regulate temperature. That’s why it’s important to implement these prevention tips.

Tips to Prevent Hot-Car Tragedies

  • Simple rule: Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute. It’s dangerous, and it is against the law in many states.
  • Set up cell phone reminders for yourself to be sure you’ve gotten the children safely to their destination.
  • Check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading. If you lock the door with your key, rather than with your remote, it would force that one last look in the car before leaving it.
  • Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children.
  • To serve as a reminder, keep a stuffed animal on the front passenger seat when carrying a child in the back seat.
  • Place something in the back seat that you would need, such as your purse, briefcase, or cell phone.
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, especially if they seem hot, call 911 immediately to help get them out.

Keeping Kids Safe From Hot Cars

Just how hot can the inside of a car get? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Emily Thomas, PhD, shows host Jack Rico how rapidly interior temperatures can rise—and what you can do to protect your kids.