In well over 50% of these cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left them in the vehicle. It happens to the most loving, protective parents. It has happened to a teacher, pediatrician, dentist, postal clerk, social worker, police officer, nurse, clergyman, electrician, accountant, soldier, assistant principal, and even a rocket scientist. IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE!
There are several factors that contribute to children being inadvertently forgotten by care givers. The fact of the matter is that our brains are not keeping up with the demands of our busy lives. The most common factors include a change in one’s normal routine, lack of sleep, stress, fatigue, distractions and hormone changes. When these factors combine, the ability for the brain to multi‐task is diminished.
As parents know, life with newborns and small children is full of stress, sleep deprivation and distractions. The young children, ESPECIALLY babies, often fall asleep in their car seats; becoming quiet, unobtrusive little passengers. Sadly, for babies with rear‐facing seats, the seat looks the same from the front seat – whether occupied or not.
A child’s body temperature rises 3‐5 times faster than an adult’s. Even with the windows partially down, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degrees in just minutes. Leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature attained.
• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
• Put something in the back seat of your vehicle that requires you to open the back door every time
you park - cell phone, employee badge, handbag, etc.
• Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that A VEHICLE IS NOT A
• Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
• Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
• If you are dropping your child off at childcare, and normally it's your spouse or partner who drops
them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure the drop went according to plan.
• Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare.
• Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing,
check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
• If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get
them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number
• Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
‣ Writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle
‣ Placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will
I have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or
‣ Keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place
the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle
Some children die in hot cars after climbing into an unlocked vehicle without an adult's knowledge. Once in the vehicle, they may become confused by the door opening mechanism or trapped in the trunk, and unable to get out before heatstroke occurs.
At other times, you are on your way home and realize you need to stop in at the store and pick up one or two things for dinner. So, you leave your child unattended, thinking, "I'll just run into the store for a minute," which is illegal in many States. Even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the temperature to rise well above 110° Fahrenheit inside your car. The inside temperature can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.
You live by your daily routine and it helps you get things done. Be extra careful, though, if you have to change any part of that routine. This is more likely to happen when you, your spouse/partner, or caregiver who helps with your children, forgets that a child is in the back seat. This can and does happen when you break a well-established routine.
On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death.
At least 260 people, 37 of whom were children ages 14 and under, have died in 229 incidents of trunk entrapment since 1970.
At least 19 children have died from unintentional trunk entrapment in 13 states from July 1987 to August 1998. All children involved were 6 years old or younger.
The average age of children who have died in unintentional trunk entrapment incidents is 4 years old .
Research indicates that children are more likely to die when trapped unintentionally than intentionally.
The trunk of a vehicle may seem like the perfect hiding spot for an innocent game of “hide-and-go-seek.” However, children do not understand how quickly the temperature inside the trunk of a vehicle can rise. These tragic stories are about children who became trapped inside the trunk of a vehicle and were not found until it was too late.
Every year, thousands of children are hurt or die because a driver moving forward very slowly didn't see them. These incidents for the most part take place in residential driveways or parking lots and are referred to as ‘frontovers.’ (the opposite of a backover).
In the U.S. at least fifty children are being backed over by vehicles EVERY week. Forty-eight (48) are treated in hospital emergency rooms and at least two (2) children are fatally injured every WEEK.
The predominant age of victims is one year olds.
Over 60% of backing up incidents involved a larger size vehicle. (truck, van, SUV)
Tragically, in over 70% of these incidents, a parent or close relative is behind the wheel.
Every year, thousands of children are killed or seriously injured because a driver backing up didn't see them. A backover incident typically takes place when a car is backing out of a driveway or parking space.
Below is a summary of the information KidsAndCars.org has been gathering for over a decade.
Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2019: 26 (view list)
Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2018: 51 (view detailed list)
Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2017: 43
Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2016: 39
Average number of child vehicular heat stroke deaths per year since 1998:38 (one every 9 days)
The highest number of fatalities in a one-year time period took place in 2018: 51