What You Need to Know About Hot Car Deaths: Best 2022 Consultant

Though various studies show reduced occurrence, hot car deaths are still present. The good news is that fatalities are preventable. Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in eliminating hot car death in children.

The main question is: What tips prevent child hot car deaths?

We offer you a solution, multiple guidelines, and different factors to consider when leaving children in vehicles and how to increase their safety in motor vehicles.


Take away key points:

  • Never leave your children alone in the cars
  • 935 children died in the period 1999-2022 due to vehicular deaths
  • The primary cause of vehicular death are forgotten children in cars
  • A car might reach 100°F in just twenty minutes, enough to cause heatstroke and death
  • Follow the laws and official guidelines to protect little ones from vehicular death
  • New technology improvements help parents not to forget kiddos in cars

All You Must Know About the Hot Car Death

Raising awareness of the hot car death and guidelines to prevent child fatalities is critical. Let's look at crucial factors to consider to increase car safety.

What is a hot car death?

hot car deaths statistics

A hot car death refers to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke - PVS. The condition means the involuntary casualty of a child younger than eighteen perishing due to severe heat or heat stroke within a contained and enclosed motor vehicle.

The car's interior - leather-wrapped steering wheel or dark upholstery attracts and preserves the heat, causing the temperature inside the motor vehicle to rise. Temperatures become hotter as there is no fresh air to cool the interior. Finally, temperatures grow to extreme levels, proving fatal to passengers inside.

Children and pets are most prone to death, as they cannot safely overcome these dangerous situations. Their bodies warm three to five times faster than adults' bodies, so kids are the most susceptible to hot car strokes in the back seat, as the AAP states.

What causes vehicular heat stroke?

Here are some of the most common causes of child hot car deaths, according to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University:


Main cause

Percentage of PVS

Number of child fatalities


Forgotten by caregivers & left unattended in the back seat of the hot vehicle




Gained access to the car doors independently




Knowingly left by caregivers







Many parents/caregivers still don't realize the severity of the issue, despite the numbers. For instance, a boy died in 2020 due to heatstroke, although the temperature was 78 F-degree outside. Even in earlier years, before 2020, many kids were found unresponsive in vehicles, regardless of the outdoor temperature.

Hot car death symptoms

how to prevent hot car deaths

A hot car death doesn't occur at once. Multiple warning signs indicate that something's wrong with your child so that you can take immediate action. The most prominent symptoms of vehicular heatstroke are:

  • Confusion
  • Skin feels dry and hot
  • Body temperature of 104°F and more 
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Delirium
  • Slurred speech
  • Rapid breathing
  • Flushed skin, racing heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Coma

You can find more symptoms here. If you notice any signs in your child left alone in a hot vehicle, please immediately seek medical help to prevent hot car deaths instantly.

Hot car safety statistics

Let's look at the statistics for a better understanding of the issue.

  • Nine hundred thirty-five kids died from vehicular heatstroke in hot cars during 1998-2022. All of the casualties were preventable, according to the NHS.
  • More than half - 53% of vehicular heatstroke happened because caregivers forgot and left the children trapped inside the hot cars.
  • 26% of the heatstroke occurred as the children gained access to the parked car doors and the caregivers were unaware that the kids were inside the hot cars.
  • Most deceased kids were infants and toddlers under two years of age, representing more than 73% of total vehicular heatstroke deaths during 1998-2022.
  • Thursdays and Fridays are the most prominent days for the highest deaths due to the week's end. You can find more information here.

In addition, there were 28 vehicular heatstroke deaths in 2022, and most happened during the summer months, as parents/caregivers left the child unattended in hot cars.

How warm can vehicles get?

On average, it takes only 25 minutes for the temperature to reach 100°F inside the vehicle if the outdoor temperature is 73°F. Another study shows that heat increases within the first fifteen to thirty minutes of a vehicle being unattended in a parking lot and off. The study confirms it doesn't take too long to heat at dangerous temperatures.

What are the risk factors for car heatstroke?

Specific risk factors are commonly associated with pediatric vehicular heatstroke, although each case differs. The risks include:

  • Age - car deaths can happen to children of any age, but recent studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show the highest death rates in children younger than two.
  • Temperature - most reported cases include high temperatures over 90° F. The higher the temperature, the faster the car's interior heats. During cold days, children have better chances of surviving in a car, but the same research shows that even 70°F also cause a higher risk of heatstroke in unattended vehicles. 
  • Location - child deaths can happen anywhere (on your way to the park to finish a quick errand, shopping, etc.). However, some states, such as Texas and Florida, have higher death rates due to their geographical positions. The states are in the south, with warmer weather, and almost a quarter of total deaths in cars. Find the exact rates for each state here.
  • Lifestyle - as parents work from home, children can quickly access unlocked cars. The same applies to locked vehicles, as a child can take car keys, unlock the vehicle, open the back door and play in the car. Parents are unaware the child is not at home, so they find them left inside the car with fatal consequences.

Based on all the studies and death cases, parents question if and how they can prevent vehicle deaths in children and increase car safety. This leads us to the next part of the article.

How to prevent hot car deaths?

As a parent or a caregiver, you have a crucial task to protect a child from pediatric vehicular heatstroke. Here are the safety tips to keep a watchful eye on your child by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

hot car deaths accident
  • Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute. It's tempting for a parent\caregiver to leave their child in the back seat of the vehicle to finish an errand. However, leaving your child unattended in the car is never a safe option, no matter the reason. Even if it's not hot outside, do not leave children alone in vehicles.
  • Teach your child that a motor vehicle is not a toy. Cars represent a new way for more fun for children, as they can investigate their functions. It's crucial to teach your kids that motor vehicles are not safe places for playing, as they can get trapped and hurt themselves without anyone knowing.
  • Use objects for a visual reminder. Place an object, such as a stuffed animal or a diaper, in the car seat in the back seat, and move it to the front seat. The things work as a visual cue helping you not to forget a child in the vehicle. Once you need to go out, the visuals in the front seat will remind you to take the kid with you.
  • Put the car keys away. Keep the keys in a safe place, away from your child's hands. They won't be able to unlock the door and enter the vehicle without your knowledge.
  • Always check the pool and the vehicle first. Pools and vehicles are the places with the highest risks of injuries and fatalities. Look for them immediately when you cannot find your child at home. Check the trucks as well if you left them open unintentionally.

Common dangerous misconceptions

Various misconceptions contribute to vehicular deaths as they're believed to prevent them. However, the misleading conceptions not only jeopardize your child's safety, but are also ineffective, aggravate the situation, or exacerbate the issue. Some of the misconceptions include:

  • Open windows - most parents believe open windows will provide enough ventilation. But, based on the temperature outside, even the open windows aren't enough to reduce the inner temperature. The temperature increases as long as the car is under direct sunlight.
  • Color of the car - a parent might believe that colors other than black (gray, white, red, etc.) might not attract the sunlight as black color does. This has little to do with the colors, as the experts state that many children died in different cars with different colors. The inner temperature increases due to the outer, so don't let the colors mislead you.
  • Shade shelters - numerous parents or caregivers believe leaving vehicles in the shaded areas will prevent heating; however, that's not the case. Even when parked in shady places, cars will increase their inner temperature, increasing the risk of child death, according to Arizona State University experts. Their study showed that children could reach a core body temperature of 104 F in less than two hours.

The consequences of children's vehicular deaths

Parents won't stop feeling the loss after the death of their children. However, legal actions might take too much time, the officials might take different steps, and the results may differ.

A recent study shows that 500 cases in which parents or caregivers accidentally leave their children alone in cars have dramatic outcomes across many states in the USA. So, the results have shown that:

- 43% - no charges were fined 

- 32% - of caregivers were charged and convicted 

- 11% - charges resulted in no convictions 

- 14% - of cases were still pending or unknown.

In addition, further in the study, Amber Rollins explains that the cases might be treated differently due to proof, medical documents, and scientific studies to determine the responsible adult. So, can parents rely on the law, and to what extent? Read below.

how to avoid hot car deaths

Hot car safety laws

The Infrastructure Bill in 2021 included legislation regarding the children in vehicular deaths. As a part of the Child Safety Section of the bill, the legislation required new vehicles with child alert technology that reminds adults that children are still inside the cars. The legislature might vary from one state to another, showing parents or caregivers still need to learn more to keep children safe in cars.

Many states introduced the Good Samaritan Laws to save lives and protect forgotten children. We've listed some of the states with the specific laws, so refer to the table below:

Can technology prevent vehicular deaths?

Nowadays, multiple car manufacturers are creating different systems to increase child safety in cars and reduce the number of fatalities. The manufacturers are helping parents and improving the advanced technologies to save children's lives. Here are some of the best examples:

  • Toyota - the 2020 Highlander model has different options (audio and visual reminders) to remind adults when the rear door is opened and that a child is inside the car
  • Nissan - the manufacturer, offers a Rear Door Alert when the rear door is opened or closed before and after the trip. The company attempts to include it in all models by the end of 2022.
  • GM - GM models feature a Rear Seat Reminder system. The system notifies the driver the rear door is opened after starting the engine.
  • Hyundai and Kia - manufacturers offer a Rear Occupant Alert with a motion sensor to ensure all passengers leave the car safely. Drivers get the alert to check the rear seat once they turn the engine off. Even when the seat and interior are empty, drivers receive notifications for the next 24h.


What happens if a baby is left in a hot car?

If a baby is left in a hot car, it might die due to heatstroke, especially during the summer.

How quickly can a baby overheat in a car?

A baby can overheat in a car in the first fifteen to thirty minutes.

How hot can a car get in the sun?

Car temperature reaches 138°F when it's 90°F outside, which is hotter than any other temperature on earth.

Can I leave the baby in the car for 5 minutes?

No, you mustn't leave your baby in the car even for one minute, let alone five. They could die due to high temperatures and heatstroke.

What to do if you see a baby left in a car?

If you happen to see a baby left in the car, please do the following:

  • Ensure the kid is alive and responding
  • Try to find parents with the help of a security guard or the PA system.
  • Try to reach the child. Break the window glass and take the kid out of the vehicle.
  • Call 911 if the child appears to be in distress or if you suspect they died. Seek instant medical help to save the baby's life.

Final Words

Hot car deaths are real, and you shouldn't neglect your children's safety while in cars. Therefore, please follow the rules and never leave your little ones unattained, even for a minute, since a stroke can jeopardize their life.

Avatar of Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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