Each summer, we hear about heartbreaking stories of children being left
alone in hot vehicles.
KidsAndCars.org reports that approximately 717 children lost their lives in this manner
between 1990 and 2013. In 2014 alone,
HLN reports 21 incidents of children dying of heatstroke after being left
inside a hot car. Two of those occurrences happened in Georgia.
In an effort to educate the public on hot car dangers, a Forsyth County
Sheriff’s deputy filmed himself being locked inside a vehicle. Deputy
Robin Regan documented being inside a car without air conditioning and
with the windows up. At the beginning of the demonstration, the interior
temperature was 96.7 degrees. After only seven minutes, the temperature
inside the car reached 101 degrees. At the 20 minute mark, Regan exited
the vehicle after measuring the temperature at 124.1 degrees. His heart
rate upon exiting the vehicle was 151 beats per minute and he felt ill
the remainder of the day. At one point during the experiment, the camera
and electronics inside the car stopped working due to the heat. Deputy
Regan’s video has now gone viral and has been viewed more than 4
The purpose of this experiment was to demonstrate just how hot the interior
of a vehicle can become in a small amount of time. Studies have shown
that it takes very little time for a vehicle’s interior temperature
to rise, and that slightly opening or tinting windows does little to help
regulate those temperatures.
Children are at higher risk in a hot vehicle than adults because their
bodies heat up much faster. This is attributed to their bodies’
internal cooling system, or sweating, which is not as effective in a child’s
body as it is in an adult’s. The smaller amount of skin on a child’s
body allows less area for sweat to evaporate and cool internal temperatures.
Once a child’s body temperature reaches 104°F, their organs
begin shutting down. At 107°F, death is imminent. These types of conditions
aren’t found only in hotter, southern states in the summer, though.
Heatstroke deaths from being inside vehicles have occurred throughout
the year and in every U.S. state, so regardless of where you are located,
it is never safe to leave a child inside a vehicle alone or without air
Of the children who lost their lives in hot vehicles, approximately 20%
were left in the car knowingly. Many parents thought their child would
be ok in the car while they ran a “quick” errand, but were
mistaken. About 30% of those children who died of heatstroke in a vehicle
entered the car without an adult realizing they had done so. The remaining
52% of children left in hot vehicles were accidents.
6 Tips to Not Forget Your Child in a Hot Car
“Accidental” occurrences may be hard to believe, but they happen
quite often and are easier to do than you’d think. For this reason,
we’ve provided a list of six steps to help drivers remember a child
in the backseat:
- If your routine changes, be extra attentive. The chances of accidentally
leaving a child in the car increase when routine deviates.
- Put a diaper bag or toy in the front seat of your car to remind you of
- Leave an important item, such as your purse or cell phone, in the backseat.
You’ll need these items every time you exit the vehicle, which will
force you to look in the back seat.
- Locate the car seat in the middle of the backseat, as opposed to behind
the driver. This makes it easier to see your child.
- Establish a system with your day care or other child-care provider. For
instance, make sure the caregiver knows to call you if your child is ever
not dropped off on time.
- "Look Before You Lock” – every single time. Make it a
habit to check the backseat of your vehicle before you exit the car.
These tips are also important to go over with others who drive your child,
such as partners, babysitters, and other family members.