Children left in hot cars: 6 deaths so far this year

Consumer Reports News: June 12, 2009 01:08 PM

It's not yet the height of summer, but high temperatures have killed two children in the past several days. Not outside temperatures though. The heat and the children were inside closed cars.

This week, newspapers in the Bay Area reported that a four-month-old boy died when his father forgot to drop him at daycare and instead left him in the car all day while he was at work. Although the outside temperature was only in the 60s, reports say the air in the car would likely have topped 100 degrees. Also this week, a three-year-old in Warwick, RI was found dead in a car parked in front of the family's house. His mother called the police when he was discovered missing, according to the Providence Journal. Police believe he climbed into the car on his own.

These are heartbreaking updates to data tracked by the department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, which lists six hyperthermia deaths of children in vehicles so far in 2009.

Here are some tips from NHTSA to help prevent hyperthermia incidents such as these:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or with the engine running and the air conditioning on.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away.
  • If you are bringing your child to daycare, and normally it's your spouse or partner who brings him, have that person call you to make sure everything went according to plan.
  • Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare.
  • Do
things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:        
    • Writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle;
    • placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or
    • keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle
  • Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
  • If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Warning signs may include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely.
  • Learn more in the full post on our Safety blog, and go to for more information.

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