3 Ways to Prevent Child Hot Car Deaths

3 Ways to Prevent Child Hot Car Deaths

Written by Debra Luben, M.D. on Aug 5, 2015, 9:00:00 AM

Every summer, cities all over the United States report deaths of children who have been left in hot cars, primarily because their parents forgot they were back there. While outraged people often say, “How can a parent possibly forget their child is in the car,” the truth of the matter is it happens and it happens often. Being busy, distracted or even changing your usual routine can all increase the risk of absent-mindedly leaving a child in their car seat in the back of the vehicle. In fact, HealthyChildren.org reported that heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths in children younger than 15 years.

Heat Stroke Can Strike Quickly

Heat stroke happens when the body loses the ability to cool itself. Ultimately, our internal body temperature becomes too high once it reaches about 104 degrees and organs begin failing – heat stroke can lead to brain damage or death. When you take into account that a child’s body heats up more quickly than an adult’s body, that a child can die when their temperature reaches 107 degrees and that the temperature in a car can raise by 20 degrees in only 10 minutes, it is easy to see how absent-mindedness can lead to these deadly situations.  

Prevent it from Happening


Deaths caused by leaving children in vehicles averaged about five per year in 1990, but now, the average number of children who die in hot cars is about 40 per year. Why? Car seat laws have changed.  

The number of children forgotten in cars and who died as a result immediately increased when it was mandated that car seats be placed in the back seat of the car. In the case of an accident, this is the safest place for your child; however, it is also the easiest place to forget them.  

You can avoid this by setting up a system of reminders:

  • Set an alarm on your phone. 
  • Have the childcare facility call you if your child is late.
  • Leave your purse, shoes or briefcase in the backseat with your child so that you cannot leave the vehicle without seeing them.

Don’t ever forget that heat stroke can happen when the temperature is as low as 57 degrees outside – there is absolutely no circumstance where it is OK to leave a child unattended in a car.

I invite you to view my video about this very important topic.



Dr. Debra Luben is a board-certified pediatrician at Main Campus whose clinical interests are centered on preventive medicine and wellness.


Topics: heat stroke, hot car, death, child safety

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