Heatstroke: Children & Hot Cars

It’s a scary thing to think about, but the fact is it happens. It is crucial for parents and caregivers to be educated about the dangers of children and hot cars. According to the National Safety Council, “in 2018, 52 children died in hot cars. It was the deadliest year on record in the past 20 years.”

Children should never be left alone in or have access to a vehicle without an adult. Even on days where the weather is mild or cloudy, or if you leave the windows down, temperatures inside a car can climb quickly, as can be seen in the chart below.

There are three main circumstances that have resulted in the deaths of children in hot cars: a caregiver forgets the child in the car, the child is knowingly left in the car, or the child gained access to the vehicle alone. Over half the time, these deaths are due to a child being unknowingly left in a vehicle.

It may be easy to believe that this could never happen to you, but the stories of those who it has happened to are filled with the same sentiment. Our brain can trick us through standard memory processes, allowing us to go into auto-pilot mode and lose our awareness of details outside of what our normal routine entails. Something like a rear-facing or sleeping baby, a change in routine, fatigue or stress, distractions, times of business or crisis, or any combination of factors can be a recipe for disaster.

The National Safety Council promotes the Look Before You Lock campaign suggests creating a routine you use each time you exit your car, whether children are in the car or not, to ensure you have checked the backseat. Here are some of the suggested methods to try to help remind yourself:

  • Always open the back door of your car when you park
  • Put something you need, like a shoe or employee badge in the backseat
  • Ask your caregiver to call if your child has not arrived as scheduled
  • Keep a toy in your child’s seat and place it up front with you whenever the child is in their car seat
  • Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder to drop your child off, especially if you don’t normally have to drop them off
  • If you usually drop your child off and someone else needs to on a given day, check in with them to confirm your child was dropped off
  • Utilize alert systems or technology, like car reminder alerts or car seat buckle notifications

Double-checking the backseat as a routine item on your schedule can’t hurt a thing and it could save a child’s life.


“Record Number of Children Died in Hot Cars in 2018”, National Safety Council.

“Heatstroke”, KidsandCars.org.