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Dozens of kids die in hot cars every year. Here are safety tips you should know

The inside of a car can easily reach 125 degrees in minutes on a summer day.
Car seat
Posted at 1:15 PM, Jun 26, 2024

The heat dome that's been gripping much of the country for more than a week is still creating dangerous conditions for millions.

On average, 181 people die of heat-related illness each year in the U.S., with children among the most vulnerable. A child's body heats up three times as quickly as an adult’s.

An average of 40 children die in hot cars each year, which is about one child every nine days. Most of them are under the age of 3.

Since 1990, over 1,000 children have died in hot cars. In almost every case, a loving parent unknowingly left the child in the backseat.

“It's one of those things that nobody really believes could happen to them, because if you love your children, you think about them all the time. The idea of losing awareness that they’re with you or forgetting about them is just impossible. And what we know after studying this issue for 30 years and working with families that it's happened to, is that this can happen to even the most loving, responsible, educated, attentive parent,” said director of nonprofit Kids and Car Safety Amber Rollins.

A change in routine, lack of sleep, stress and other distractions are just some of the reasons these tragedies happen.

“It doesn't have to be a huge change in routine. It could be something as little as getting a phone call in the car or taking a detour, different route to work,” Rollins said.

For the past two decades, Kids and Car Safety has pushed Congress to require automakers to install technology in new vehicles that would detect and alert parents if a child is in the backseat.

But the fight drags on.

Preventing hot car deaths in children

There are some simple habits that can keep your child safe:

  • Place the diaper bag in the front seat as a visual cue.
  • You can also put a personal item in the back seat, like your employee ID badge or cell phone.
  • Another precaution is to ask your child care provider to call you right away if your child is not at the facility.

The inside of a car can easily reach 125 degrees in minutes on a summer day. And conditions do not have to be scorching hot. Children have died when outside temperatures were just 60 degrees.
Until lawmakers require heat safety detectors in vehicles, which is making some progress, the best things parents can do for now are visual cues to avoid these terrible tragedies.

Heat is the number one weather-related killer overall.