We Can Prevent Hot Car Deaths

One child lost is too many.

Amy Artuso, MPH, CPSTI
April 27, 2022

The thought of a child dying in a hot vehicle is unimaginable for most parents and caregivers. However, since 1998, more than 900 children in the U.S. have died because of this completely preventable tragedy. 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%). Well-meaning caregivers may inadvertently place children in harm’s way because most people don’t understand vehicle heating dynamics, that is, how hot and how fast the temperature rises inside an enclosed vehicle.

It takes far less time than most of us realize. Regardless of the temperature outside, temperatures inside a vehicle increase by 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes on average. This happens on cloudy days, during every month of the year, and in every region. While May 1 marked the official National Heatstroke Prevention Day, this issue is not only a cause for concern during summer months or in “warm-weather” states. It can and has unintentionally happened to loving parents and caregivers. While remaining in an enclosed vehicle can be risky for anyone, children face greater risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than that of an adult.

To make a difference and save lives, take our 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. Once you know the risks, you might consider getting a vehicle with a built-in unattended child reminder or detection system and heed those notifications. Create a consistent routine to always Look Before You Lock, and share this information with others.

This topic should concern everyone, even individuals without children of their own. If you live in a neighborhood with children, it is important to lock unattended vehicles so children cannot gain access. If you work with colleagues that have children, it is important to be attentive in parking lots at work and shopping locations. According to NoHeatstroke.org, about 24% of all pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths have occurred at the caregivers’ place of work. New resources are coming soon to raise awareness of this issue in the workplace as well. For more information, visit nsc.org/hotcars and cpsboard.org/heatstroke, and consider how you can get involved.

The truth is, the tragedy of a child dying from something completely preventable impacts all of us, whether we care for or transport children, live near children or work with their caregivers. Please share this information with others in your life. Heatstroke kills, and one more child lost to this preventable cause of death is too many.

Amy Artuso, MPH, CPSTI

Amy Artuso is senior program manager III, mobility safety, at the National Safety Council and past chair of the National Child Passenger Safety Board.

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