Remember Your Baby: Preventing Death and Injury in Hot Cars

Summer is on its way. The warming temperatures bring outdoor activities and fun. They also increase dangers for young children, including the threat posed by hot cars. While leaving a child in a hot car may be unthinkable, an average of 38 children a year die of heatstroke while in a car. Experts and safety advocates offer advice and information for parents and drivers to prevent these tragedies.

According to the National Safety Council (NSA), Pediatric vehicular heatstroke is still the leading cause of non-crash motor vehicle-related fatality for children. The three most common circumstances include children being forgotten or unknowingly left by a caregiver (52.6%), children who have gained access to an unlocked vehicle (25.8%), and children being left knowingly (20.1%). 

These tragedies often occur because most caregivers do not understand vehicle heating dynamics. The NSA warns that it takes far less time than most people realize for car temperatures to reach dangerously high levels. They write that, “Regardless of the temperature outside, temperatures inside a vehicle increase by 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes on average.” While this can happen at any time of year, warmer weather increase the overall starting temperatures inside of vehicles and therefore raise the risks of dangerous conditions for children whose bodies heat up three to five times faster than that of an adult.

The United States Department of Transportation offers the following advice for preventing hot car death and injury:

Parents and Caregivers

  1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended for any length of time. Rolling windows down or parking in the shade does little to change the interior temperature of the vehicle.
  2. Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle — especially the back seat — before locking the doors and walking away. 
  3. Ask your childcare provider to call if your child doesn’t show up for care as expected. 
  4. Place a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat, as another reminder to look before you lock. Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.
  5. Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.

Everyone — Including Bystanders


Secure Your Car

Always lock your car doors, year-round, so children can’t get into unattended vehicles.

 Act Fast. Save a Life.

If you see a child alone in a locked car, act immediately and call 911. A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.

Resources and Products

The NSC offers  free online training (in English or Spanish) to learn about the dangers of children in hot cars and how you can prevent a tragedy from happening in your family or neighborhood. They also recommend considering purchasing a vehicle with a built-in child notification system and to create a consistent routine to always Look Before You Lock, and share this information with others.

Concerned parents can also consider purchasing safety products like the ones listed below:

Kid in Car Slap Band

Child Safety Reminder

Baby Car Seat Alarm


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