On average, 37 kids die in hot cars every year in the United States, according to San Jose State University’s Jan Null.
Incidents spike between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when almost three kids die each week. In 2016, more than twice as many children died in hot cars (39) than all individuals who died in tornadoes across the country (17).
Null, a certified consulting meteorologist, has been tracking U.S. child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998. His research indicates more than half of kids die after a parent or guardian forgets them in a vehicle. This can happen to anyone at any time.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, parents often are stressed. Often, tragedies occur when schedules and routines are broken.
Null analyzes media reports and details the circumstances surrounding each case through NoHeatstroke.org, a program supported by the National Safety Council. In cases of heatstroke deaths, his findings show:
- 87% of children who die are 3 years old or younger
- 54% are forgotten in a vehicle
- 28% are playing in an unattended vehicle
- 17% are intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult
In April 2017, a 1-year-old boy died after being left in a pickup truck. At that time, the temperature in Vestavia, AL, was just 68 degrees. What many don’t know is cars and trucks heat up rapidly even on milder days and no matter the time of year.
The temperature inside a vehicle can rise by nearly 20 degrees in 10 minutes. Heatstroke occurs when a person’s body temperature exceeds 104 degrees, according to Hold on to Dear Life, a campaign of Primary Children’s Hospital. At 107 degrees, cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down. This can lead to death.
Young children are at risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, according to a journal report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Heat Stress From Enclosed Vehicles: Moderate Ambient Temperatures Cause Significant Temperature Rise in Enclosed Vehicles (.pdf)
- Hold On To Dear Life (.pdf)
What You Can Do
To prevent tragedies, Safe Kids Worldwide produced an ACT Now Toolkit that includes a printable tip sheet: Everything you need to know to keep your kids safe from heatstroke. Here are five recommendations:
- Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute
- Keep your car locked when you are not in it so kids don’t gain access
- Create reminders by putting something in the back seat next to your child, such as a briefcase, purse, cell phone or your left shoe
- If you see a child alone in a car, call 911
- Set a calendar reminder on your electronic device to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare; develop a plan so you will be alerted if your child is late or a no-show
ACT Now Toolkit
HEATSTROKE SAFETY TIPS
Reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT.
A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
Go a Step Further: Create Extra Reminders and Communicate with Daycare
- Create a calendar reminder for your electronic devices to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare.
- Develop a plan with your daycare so that if your child is late, you’ll be called within a few minutes. Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off children at daycare.
Teach Kids Not to Play in Cars
- Make sure to lock your vehicle, including doors and trunk, when you’re not using it. Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.
- Teach kids that trunks are for transporting cargo and are not safe places to play. If your child is missing, get help and check swimming pools, vehicles and trunks.
- If your children are locked in a car, get them out as quickly as possible and dial 911 immediately. Emergency personnel are trained to evaluate and check for signs of heatstroke.
alone in a car can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke. Young children are particularly at risk, as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. These tragedies are completely preventable.
(1) Baby dies after being left inside hot truck in Vestavia Hills
A 1-year-old died Friday after being found in a hot vehicle in Vestavia Hills, WVTM 13 has learned.
Fire and rescue crews were called to the NaphCare office parking lot off Columbiana Road, where a man found his infant son inside his hot pickup truck around 4:38 p.m. The infant, who had gone into cardiac arrest, was taken to Children’s of Alabama, but he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.
The baby’s name hasn’t been released.
“This incident is classified as a “Death Investigation” and ourInvestigators are working diligently to determine all of the factorssurrounding the cause and circumstances related to this tragedy,” Vestavia Hills police said in a released statement. “We ask for everyone’s patience as we work to that end.”
NaphCare confirmed the child’s father is an employee of the company.
Toddler who died after being left in truck outside Vestavia Hills office building identified
on April 10, 2017 at 1:47 PM, updated April 10, 2017 at 2:17 PM
Authorities today released the name of a little boy who died Friday after being left in a hot car outside of a Vestavia Hills office building.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office identified the boy as Christian Evan Sanders. He was 1, and lived in eastern Jefferson County.
Vestavia Hills police and firefighters responded to the office building in the 2000 block of Columbiana Road at 4:38 p.m., said Vestavia Hills Fire Department Lt. Ryan Farrell. The call was on a child left in a vehicle, he said. The red Ford F-150 was parked in the rear parking lot of the NaphCare Building.
Christian’s father, a software engineer at the company, had already taken the boy out of the vehicle by the time police and medics arrived. The boy was in cardiac arrest, Farrell said. First responders rushed the child to Children’s of Alabama via a police escort, with area municipalities helping to clear the roadways for faster transport. The boy’s father accompanied his son to the hospital.
The caravan arrived at Children’s at 4:53 p.m. Christian was pronounced dead at 5:06 p.m., according to the coroner’s office and police. The cause of death has not been confirmed pending the outcome of toxicology tests.
As of now, police are classifying the case as a death investigation only but will coordinate with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted. Vestavia Hills police Capt. Brian Gilham said Friday that is standard procedure and it’s too soon to know whether that is a possibility.
Gilham stopped short of labeling the incident a “hot car death” pending the coroner’s report.
Should authorities rule that being left in the car was the cause of Evan’s death, it would be the fourth such death nationwide in 2017 and the first in Alabama, according to Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist at San Jose State University and one of the nation’s leading experts on the dynamics of how hot vehicles can get and the tracking of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.
In 2016, she said, there were a total of 39 juvenile vehicular hyperthermia deaths nationwide, including two in Alabama.
Zachary Stacey Countryman, 7 months old, died on April 29, 2016 in Monroeville and his mother, Jennifer Bowden, charged with reckless manslaughter for leaving her son in a hot car at their home. The mom was arrested again a couple of months later on a public intoxication charge.
In September 2015, another 7-month-old child died at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The child, whose identity wasn’t released, was left in a parked vehicle during the work day and found about 4:42 p.m. The father, a NASA employee, was supposed to drop the child off at daycare. No additional information was ever released on that case.
Since 1998, 704 infants and children have died in hot vehicles in the U.S., with 17 of those in Alabama, Null said.
In addition to the two Alabama deaths last year, there were also several incidents where children survived.
In July 2016, a 1-year-old girl was found unconscious outside of her father’s downtown office building after having been left in a vehicle for up to four hours, police said. Police said the father dropped the mother off at work and then went on to his office, where the baby was left in the car seat. She was eventually released from the hospital, but the extent of her recovery was never released.
Also in July, A 23-year-old Birmingham woman was arrested after police say she left her infant in a hot, locked car while she shopped. Deidra Nicole Williams was arrested in Alabaster on a charge of willful abuse of a child under the age of 18.
Alabaster police Chief Curtis Rigney said police received a call about 1:30 p.m. that Saturday to assist firefighters on a 5-month-old found inside a vehicle on First Street North. Initially investigators believed the baby had been in the vehicle for only a short amount of time, but Rigney said they later determined it was an extended period of time. He didn’t have an exact amount of time.
Baby saved from hot, locked car while mom shopped
Baby saved from hot, locked car while mom shopped
“I would say within five or 10 minutes, that baby would have been dead,” said Alabaster police Chief Curtis Rigney.
The windows were rolled up, the car was locked and it was not running, Rigney said. At the time the infant was found, the National Weather Service estimated the heat index outside of the car to be 102 degrees. Rigney said he isn’t sure what the temperature inside the car was at the time the baby was discovered.
A preliminary hearing on Williams’ case is scheduled for next month.
A week after the Alabaster incident, a Montgomery woman previously convicted of severely injuring a toddler boy was arrested after leaving her infant son in a hot car while she shopped at Walmart.
Javonda Latrice Weeks, 33, is charged with contributing to the dependency of a minor, which is a misdemeanor, said Montgomery police Capt. Zedrick Dean. She is also charged with probation violation.
Montgomery police and firefighters were called to the 800 block of Ann Street about 10 a.m. that Saturday after the 7-month-old boy – clad only in a diaper – was spotted unattended in the vehicle.
Dean said the windows had been left cracked and the vehicle was unlocked. Weeks was taken into custody, and the baby was placed into the custody of his father. The outcome of that case wasn’t immediately available.
Of the 2016 deaths nationwide, 38 of them happened between March 15 through October 11, according to noheatstroke.org. One of the deaths happened in January when the outside temperate was 52 degrees.
Null said with Friday’s outside temperature in Birmingham at about 69 degrees, the inside air temperature of the car could have been in excess of 140 degrees. Objects or a person inside the car in direct sunlight would have been significantly hotter.
The investigation into Friday’s death is ongoing. Gilham said Monday that police will not be releasing any additional information until the probe is complete.
(2) Never leave your child alone
Between 1998 and 2011, nearly 525 children died as a result of being left alone in a car. By leaving your children unattended in a vehicle for even a few minutes, you are needlessly risking their lives.
- Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle
- Make a habit of checking your vehicle before leaving it
- Keep a stuffed animal or other reminder next to you in the car as a cue that your child is with you
- If you see a child left alone in a car, contact the police or call 911
- 33% of children who die from being left in a hot car are less than one year old
- Cracking your vehicle’s windows has very little effect on its temperature
- When left in a hot vehicle, a child’s body temperature can increase three to five times as fast as an adult’s
- Children left unattended in a vehicle are at risk of being kidnapped
- Children left alone in a car can push buttons, disengage the brakes, put the car in gear or even leave the vehicle and walk away
View or download our safety card:
- 1: Hot vehicles are the primary non-crash, vehicle-related killer of children under 14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Children under the age of 1 are the most common victims, according to Kidsandcars.org.
- 16: Only a few weeks into summer, this year’s count of 16 hot-car deaths is currently the lowest in recent history, according to the Department of Earth and Climate Science at San Francisco State University. Twelve have been confirmed as heatstroke, while medical examiners are still investigating four.
- 38: Since 1998, the annual average of juvenile deaths in cars has been 38, the Department of Earth and Climate Science found. There were 44 deaths last year, compared to 34 in 2012.
- 600: Since 1998, there have been more than 600 juvenile deaths triggered by hyperthermia, or heat stroke, and the spread of cases has varied by year.
- 61 percent: The NHTSA estimates heatstroke is the cause of 61 percent of non-crash-fatalities in children under 14.
- 68 percent: While the majority of heatstroke deaths in cars occurs between June and August, deaths have been recorded for every month besides January over the past 16 years, according to researchers at San Francisco State University. Over that span, there were a total of 15 deaths in March and 19 in October.
- 54 percent: More than half of those who left children alone in vehicles did so unknowingly, according to Kidsandcars.org. Other reasons cited: the child got into the vehicle on his or her own (32 percent), child was knowingly left in vehicle (12 percent) and circumstance unknown (2 percent).
Here are some tips to keep in mind based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
1. It takes 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to go up 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cracking a window open and parking in the shade aren’t sufficient safeguards.
3. A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s. A child dies with a 107 degree body temperature.
4. Even if it’s in the 60s outside, your car can still heat up to well above 110 degrees.
5. It only takes a 57-degree outside temperature to cause heatstroke.
6. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly peaks in 10 minutes.
Technology Can be Part of the Solution
NSC backs efforts to use technology to prevent children from being forgotten in vehicles. Without offering an endorsement of any vehicle or product, NSC provides the following information to help parents and guardians protect their most precious cargo:
Rear Seat Reminder: If a rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or is opened and closed while the vehicle is running, five chimes will sound and a message will display on the instrument panel when the vehicle shuts off to remind the driver to check the rear seat. This technology is available on several 2017 GM vehicles. (http://myautoworld.com/autonews/23190)
Car Seat Technology: This technology generates a series of tones activated through a “smart” chest clip and wireless receiver to remind the driver that a child is in the rear seat within two seconds of turning off the vehicle.
- Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars – American Academy of Pediatrics
- Protecting Children From Extreme Heat – AAP
- Heat Exposure and Reactions – AAP
- Heatstroke Kills Children – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Look Before You Lock – NHTSA
- Children and Heatstroke – SafeKids.org
- Children and Heatstroke – Safe Kids Worldwide
- Kids and Cars – KidsandCars.org