It can happen to anyone, even the most loving parents and caregivers, but it is entirely preventable. Every 10 days a child dies from Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) while unattended in a car. The total number of PVH deaths in the US, from 1998 through 2020 is 882; an average of 38 fatalities a year.i It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and become deadly to a child inside.
Definition: Vehicles heat up very quickly, and that heat can be fatal to young children. Children are at a higher risk than adults of dying from heatstroke in a vehicle because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults’ (NHTSA). Children who are too young to communicate or open car doors are at particularly high risk from heatstroke in a vehicle (NHTSA). It is never safe to leave a child or children alone in a vehicle.
Magnitude of the Problem: According to NHTSA:
- 661 children died due to heatstroke from 1998-2015.
- It only takes ten minutes for a car to increase 20 degrees in temperature.
- Heatstroke has occurred in temperatures as low as 57 degrees.
- Never leave a child or children unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows cracked, even “for a minute”
- Always check the backseat when exiting the vehicle (put your phone or your purse in the backseat to create a reminder system)
- When not in use, always keep vehicle doors and trunks locked and keep keys out of reach of children
- Make an agreement with your childcare provider to always call you as soon as possible when your child is absent
- Call 911 if you see a child alone in a vehicle
National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Kids in Hot Cars Heatstroke Fact Sheet (2016).