With warm weather come tragic cases of children being left in hot cars and dying from heatstroke. On average, 39 children in the U.S. die of heatstroke each year after being left in a hot car, according to KidsandCars.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.

Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, says that researchers are working on devices, including weight sensors and heartbeat monitors, to detect the presence of a child in the backseat. General Motors has technology in some newer models 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. Some child-seat manufacturers are also working to incorporate child-detecting technologies into the car seat itself.

More on Heatstroke

Consumer Reports has called on lawmakers in Congress to support the Hot Cars Act, bipartisan legislation introduced last year in both the House and Senate that would require all new passenger vehicles in the U.S. to come with standard equipment designed to help prevent child deaths from heatstroke suffered in motor vehicles.

“The good news is that the technology to prevent these tragedies is available,” says Ethan Douglas, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “That’s why we strongly urge Congress to pass the Hot Cars Act without delay, to provide parents with a simple, integrated, and reliable way to help prevent forgetting their child in the back seat when they get out of the car.”

Heat stroke death is a risk to children in hot cars

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 backseat.
  • Place something in the backseat 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, Ph.D., shows host Jack Rico how rapidly interior temperatures can rise—and what you can do to protect your kids.