Preventing Tragedies: Understanding and Preventing Hot Car Deaths

June 19, 2024

As summer temperatures begin to rise, the risk of heat-related tragedies increases. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over the past 25 years, more than 970 children have tragically died of heatstroke after being left or becoming trapped in hot cars. These incidents are devastating, yet entirely preventable. It’s crucial for everyone to understand the gravity of this issue and take proactive steps to prevent such tragedies.

Know the Facts

  1. Children’s Vulnerability to Heat: A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s. When left in a vehicle, a child’s temperature can rise rapidly, leading to dangerous and potentially fatal conditions.
  2. Heatstroke Thresholds: Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A child can die when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
  3. Recent Statistics: In 2023, 29 children died of heatstroke in vehicles. In 2018 and 2019, there was a record number of hot car deaths, with 53 children dying each year, the most in at least 25 years, according to

Everyone Can Help Prevent Hot Car Deaths

For Parents and Caregivers:

  1. Never Leave a Child Unattended: 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. Check Your Vehicle: Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle, especially the back seat, before locking the doors and walking away.
  3. Communicate with Childcare Providers: Ask your childcare provider to call if your child doesn’t show up for care as expected.
  4. Use Reminders: Place a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat as a 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. Secure Car Keys: Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.

For Everyone — Including Bystanders:

  1. Secure Your Car: Always lock your car when you aren’t using it. Even if you don’t have a child of your own, a child in your neighborhood could get into your unlocked vehicle.
  2. 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.

By being vigilant and taking these preventative measures, we can all contribute to ending the heartbreaking and preventable deaths of children in hot cars. For more information and resources, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.