[Note: This study has now been published in
here to download
So far in 2014 there have been at least
eighteen heatstroke deaths of children in
vehicles; thirteen confirmed as heatstroke and five are still pending official
findings by the medical examiner. Last year, 2013, there were at least forty-four deaths of children in
vehicles; thirty-nine which has been confirmed as heatstroke and five which, based
upon the known circumstances, are most likely heatstroke (2013
In 2012 there were 34 deaths of children due to
hyperthermia (heatstroke) after being left in or having gained access to hot cars, trucks, vans and
SUV's. Since 1998 there have been at least 624 documented cases of
heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles. This data and study shows that these
incidents can occur on days with relatively mild (i.e., ~ 70 degrees F)
temperatures and that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures
There are also far too many "close calls" that fortunately
do not result in a tragic death. Some of those are documented
- Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2014: 18
- Total number of
U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2013:
Total number of
U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 1998-present:
Average number of U.S. child
heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998:
See Monthly Statistics
Per Capita Deaths by State
ANNUAL DATA AND MAPS
Click links and maps
below for expanded details
Click links and maps
above for expanded details
In the three-year period of 1990-1992,
before airbags became popular, there were only 11 known deaths of
children from heatstroke .
In the most recent three-year period of 2011-2013, when almost all young
children are now placed in back seats instead of front seats, there have
been at least 109 known fatalities from
heatstroke...a ten-fold increase from
the rate of the early 1990s.
note: This in no way implies that it is advocated that
children be placed in the front seat or that airbags be disabled.]
- Only 20 states have laws
leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
Samaritan Laws may protect persons who see a child in a
car and take action to render assistance.
30 states do not have
laws specifically against leaving a child unattended in a vehicle
- Another 14 states have had previously
proposed unattended child laws
- An Associated Press (AP) study "Wide
disparity exists in sentences for leaving kids to die in hot cars"
examined both the frequency of prosecutions and length of sentences in hyperthermia deaths
- Charges were files in 49% of all the deaths. 81% resulted
- In cases with paid caregivers (i.e., childcare workers,
babysitters) 84% were charged and 96% convicted
- Only 7% of the cases involved drugs or alcohol
- Heatstroke occurs
when a person's temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their
thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed
- Symptoms include : dizziness, disorientation, agitation,
confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not
sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations
- A core body temperature of 107 degrees F
or greater can be lethal as cells are damaged and
internal organs begin to shut down.
thermoregulatory systems are not as efficient as an adult's and their
body temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s.
The atmosphere and
the windows of a car are relatively “transparent” to the sun’s shortwave radiation
(yellow in figure below) and are warmed little. However this shortwave energy does
heat objects that it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can
easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to over 200 degrees F.
These objects (e.g.,
dashboard, steering wheel, childseat) heat the adjacent air by conduction
and convection and also give off longwave radiation (red)
which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.
VEHICLE HEAT STUDY
- Study of
temperature rise in enclosed cars on 16 dates between May 16 and Aug. 8,
temperature were between 72 and 96 degrees F.
- Dark Blue mid-side
sedan with medium grey interior
- Also tested with
click to enlarge
All 16 Cases
- NEVER LEAVE A CHILD
UNATTENDED IN A VEHICLE. NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE !
- IF YOU SEE A CHILD UNATTENDED IN A HOT
VEHICLE CALL 9-1-1.
- Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle
when unloading. Don't overlook sleeping babies.
- Always lock your car and
ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
IF A CHILD IS MISSING, ALWAYS CHECK THE
POOL FIRST, AND THEN THE CAR, INCLUDING THE TRUNK. Teach your children that
vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
- Keep a stuffed animal in the carseat and when
the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the
- Or place your purse or briefcase in the back
seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
- Make "look before you leave" a routine whenever
you get out of the car.
- Have a plan that your childcare provider will
call you if your child does not show up for school.
"Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat"
National Weather Service
QUESTIONS (click here)
Jan Null, CCM
San Francisco State University
Phone: (408) 379-7500
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