Kids and Hot Cars

Record Number of Children Died in Hot Cars in 2018

In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars. It was the deadliest year on record in the past 20 years. Since 1998, almost 800 children have died from vehicular heatstroke; 24% occurred in employer parking lots while the parent or caregiver was at work. Parents and caregivers can act immediately to end these preventable deaths.

Free Online Course: Children in Hot Cars

Educate yourself and everyone you know about this danger. The National Safety Council offers a free online course about the danger of vehicular heatstroke in children, the three primary circumstances that have led to children dying and what we all can do to prevent these deaths. One child is too many.

Complete and share this training now at nsc.org/hotcars. A certificate of completion is provided at the end of the training.

How Does It Happen?

Circumstances resulting in pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths (1998-2018). Source: NoHeatStroke.org.

Even on mild or cloudy days, temperatures inside vehicles can reach life-threatening levels. Leaving windows slightly open doesn't help. Children should never be left unattended or be able to get inside a vehicle.

Three primary circumstances resulting in deaths of children in hot cars are:

  • A caregiver forgetting a child in a vehicle
  • The child gaining access to the vehicle
  • Someone knowingly leaving a child in the vehicle

NSC advises parents and caregivers to stick to a routine and avoid distractions to reduce the risk of forgetting a child. Place a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to force you to take one last look before walking away. Keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access, and teach them that cars are not play areas. There is no safe time to leave a child in a vehicle, even if you are just running a quick errand.

Free Resources

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A Legislative Look

In 2018, NSC released a groundbreaking report on pediatric vehicular heatstroke (PVH) titled, Kids in Hot Cars; a Legislative Look Across the U.S.

In an effort to better understand and document this risk, NSC works with partner experts, including Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist and adjunct professor at San Jose State University. Mr. Null has been tracking child deaths resulting from vehicular heatstroke since 1998, and his work provides the basis for data and information in this report.

The objectives of the report are to:

  • Support stronger laws to protect children from being knowingly left unattended in vehicles
  • Increase awareness and understanding of vehicle heating dynamics
  • Increase awareness of the risk of children gaining access to vehicles on their own
  • Encourage policies for childcare providers
  • Recommend study of factors that contribute to unknowingly leaving a child in a vehicle

The report also features a first-hand account of a father who lost his beloved daughter.

As of the end of 2018, an average of 38 children die needlessly this way every year, and it can happen to anyone. Please read and share this life-saving information.

Download the Report

Technology Can be Part of the Solution

NSC supports efforts to use technology to prevent children from being forgotten in vehicles. Without offering an endorsement of any vehicle or product, NSC provides the following information as examples to help parents and guardians protect their most precious passengers:

  • Rear Seat Reminder: If a rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or is opened and closed while the vehicle is running, five chimes will sound and a message will display on the instrument panel when the vehicle shuts off to remind the driver to check the rear seat. This technology is available on several 2017 GM vehicles.
  • Car Seat Technology: This technology generates a series of tones activated through a "smart" chest clip and wireless receiver to remind the driver that a child is in the rear seat within two seconds of turning off the vehicle.

A Needless Risk


Hold On to Dear Life is a campaign of Primary Children's Hospital.


A Promise to Payton


Learn about one father's experience and what he is doing to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving kids in hot cars. Then, test yourself. Take the SaferCar.gov quiz: How Much Do You Know About Preventing Child Heatstroke?


Other Resources