Demos: What happens when young children are left in hot cars

Published on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:56 - Written by

With the start of summer, Tyler Police Department would like to remind you of the dangers of leaving you child unattended in a vehicle during the summer months.

On Wednesday, May 21, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., officers from the Tyler Police Department will be at the front entrance of the Broadway Square Mall demonstrating the dangers of what it would be like to leave a child in a hot vehicle unattended.

Each year, especially during the summer months, we hear reports of the tragic loss of young children as a result of heatstroke in hot vehicles. Recently in Tyler, a small child was rescued from a vehicle after being left unattended in a vehicle for a long period of time. The child was transported to a hospital with heat related issues and the mother was arrested for child endangerment.

We urge parents and caregivers to think, "Where's baby? Look before you lock."


In 2013, 44 children died inside hot vehicles in the United States. data confirms that more children died in 2010 from vehicular heat stroke than ever before. There were a total of 49 fatalities.


 2013 Child vehicular heat stroke deaths: 44

 2012 Child vehicular heat stroke deaths: 32

 2011 Child vehicular heat stroke deaths: 33

 2010 Child vehicular heat stroke deaths: 49 (highest number of fatalities in one year‐‐ever)

 2009 Child vehicular heat stroke deaths: 33'

 1991‐2011 Child vehicular heat stroke deaths: at least 613

 Average number of child vehicular heat stroke deaths per year since 1998: 38 (one every 9 days)

Contributing Factors

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.

There are several factors that contribute to children being inadvertently forgotten by care givers. Paramount is the fact 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. And young children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their car seats; becoming quiet, unobtrusive little passengers. And sadly, for babies with rear‐facing seats, the seat looks the same from the front seat – whether occupied or not. Vehicular heat stroke is largely misunderstood by the general public. The majority of parents would like to believe that they could never “forget” their child in a vehicle. The most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think it cannot happen to them or their family.

In well over 50 percent 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 can happen to anyone from all walks of life. Circumstances • Unknowingly left in vehicle: 54.25%

• Knowingly left in vehicle: 11.94%

• Got into vehicle on their own: 31.58%

• Circumstance Unknown: 1.82% Ages Children who have died from vehicular hyperthermia in the United States (1998‐2010) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years. Thirty‐one percent (31%) of hyperthermia deaths involve children under the age of one‐year. In most states, infants are required to ride in rear‐facing infant seats, in the back seat of a vehicle. Rear‐facing infant seats do not look any different from the front seat if they are occupied or empty, which can cause a parent to think the child is no longer in the car with them.

Eighty‐seven percent of children who have died from vehicular heat stroke are age 3 and younger.