Kids in hot cars: NHTSA releases toolkit for preventing heat-related deaths


Photo: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Washington – As outdoor temperatures increase, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children in hot cars.

The administration recently published a toolkit (available in English and Spanish) for preventing vehicle-related heat stroke. The kit includes safety tips, a fact sheet and an online form for caregivers to pledge that they will remain vigilant.

Heat stroke is the No. 1 cause of non-crash-related motor vehicle deaths among children 14 and younger, according to NHTSA. From 1998 to 2014, 636 children died from heat stroke after being left in a vehicle. Fifty-three percent of those children had been forgotten by a caregiver, 29 percent were playing in unattended vehicles and 17 percent were intentionally left in the vehicle.

Tips for parents and caregivers include:

  • Never leave a child alone in a parked vehicle.
  • Always check the front and back seats of the vehicle before walking away.
  • To prevent children from playing in unattended vehicles, always lock your vehicle doors and trunk, and keep keys out of the reach of children.
  • Make sure your child’s daycare facility calls you if your child does not show up.
  • If you see another child alone in a hot vehicle, take action by locating the parents, asking for the vehicle’s owner to be paged over a facility’s public address system or calling 911.

Children are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke because their body temperature rises 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s temperature, NHTSA states. A child in a parked vehicle is at risk even if the windows are rolled down – a vehicle can heat up by as many as 20º F in only 10 minutes.

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