Child Fatalities from Heatstroke in Cars (2018)

The death of a child is one of the most senseless and horrifying events a parent or loving caregiver could face. And yet, an average of 37 times per year, a child dies of heatstroke in a vehicle.

Most of the time, the event was an accident, often caused by the caregiver forgetting they had a child in the car.

Parents that intentionally leave children in the vehicle, need to pay attention to the following statistics:

Heatstroke Age at Death

These statistics, and the fact that young children are stuck in car seats and unable to free themselves make them ultra vulnerable.

Are you sick and tired of hearing these stories on the news? So are we!

Child Vehicular Heatstroke Deaths by State in 2018

Depositphotos_27538253_original-1600x1600


Notice the trend of traditionally warmer states with higher child fatalities. We never recommend parents or guardians leave children unattended in a vehicle, but that goes double or triple in states in the southern region of the United States.

State Number of deaths Average temperature Average age (Months) Number of deaths since 1998 Rank
South Carolina 6 89.5˚ 18 17 1
Texas 4 94˚ 14 118 2
Virginia 4 87˚ 8 31 3
Florida 3 89˚ 12 86 4
California 3 84˚ 20 48 5
Kentucky 3 91˚ 30 20 6
Tennessee 2 88.5˚ 24 27 7
Ohio 2 93˚ 3 21 8
Missouri 2 93˚ 31 21 9
Alabama 1 86˚ 24 21 10
Georgia 1 92˚ 7 32 11
Oklahoma 1 90˚ 36 22 12
North Carolina 1 87˚ 7 29 13
Louisiana 1 91˚ 6 28 14
Mississippi 1 89˚ 10 18 15
New York 1 91˚ 121 8 16

Check out some of the trends below:

– Average Temperature at Death

– Number of Deaths by State (2018)

– Number of Deaths by State (Since 1998)

These deaths are easy to prevent with a single commitment: Never leave your children unattended in a vehicle

  • More children have died of vehicular heatstroke in Texas in the past twenty years than in any other state.
  • Two of the deaths in Virginia this summer were siblings in the same incident.

Want to know more about your state’s temperatures?

2018’s Higher Than Normal Temps

2018 was a particularly bad year for this kind of preventable death, and that may have been impacted by higher than normal temperatures across the board.

According to the NOOA, May to October 2018 was the warmest six month stretch on record (see the data below for further breakdown)

PERIOD VALUE RANK
(1895-2018)
WARMEST/COOLEST SINCE WARMEST/COOLEST RECORD
Oct 18
(1 Mo)
53.82°F
(12.12°C)
44ᵗʰ Coolest
81ˢᵗ Warmest
Coolest since: 2013
Warmest since: 2017
1925
1963
Sep-Oct 18
(2 Mos)
60.70°F
(15.94°C)
103ʳᵈ Coolest
22ⁿᵈ Warmest
Coolest since: 2013
Warmest since: 2017
1976
2015
Aug-Oct 18
(3 mos)
64.97°F
(18.32°C)
109ᵗʰ Coolest
16ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest since: 2016
1976
1947
Jul-Oct 18
(4 mos)
67.59°F
(19.77°C)
110ᵗʰ Coolest
15ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest since: 2016
1976
1998
Jun-Oct 18
(5 Mos)
68.38°F
(20.21°C)
119ᵗʰ Coolest
6ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest since: 2016
1912
2016
May-Oct 18
(6 Mos)
67.91°F
(19.95°C)
124ᵗʰ Coolest
1ˢᵗ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest to Date
1917
2018
Apr-Oct 18
(7 Mos)
65.21°F
(18.45°C)
120ᵗʰ Coolest
5ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest since: 2016
1907
1934, 2012
Mar-Oct 18
(8 Mos)
62.40°F
(16.89°C)
117ᵗʰ Coolest
8ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2014
Warmest since: 2017
1917
2012
Feb-Oct 18
(9 Mos)
59.41°F
(15.23°C)
116ᵗʰ Coolest
9ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2014
Warmest since: 2017
1917
2012
Jan-Oct 18
(10 Mos)
56.69°F
(13.72°C)
115ᵗʰ Coolest
10ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2014
Warmest since: 2017
1912, 1917
2012
Dec 17–Oct 18
(11 Mos)
54.65°F
(12.58°C)
114ᵗʰ Coolest
10ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2014
Warmest since: 2017
1917
2012
Nov 17–Oct 18
(12 Mos)
53.85°F
(12.14°C)
116ᵗʰ Coolest
8ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2015
Warmest since: 2017
1917
2012
May 17-Oct 18
(18 Mos)
58.15°F
(14.53°C)
116ᵗʰ Coolest
8ᵗʰ Warmest
Coolest since: 2015
Warmest since: 2017
1917
2016
Nov 16–Oct 18
(24 Mos)
54.27°F
(12.37°C)
120ᵗʰ Coolest
3ʳᵈ Warmest
Coolest since: 2015
Warmest since: 2017
1913
2017
Nov 15–Oct 18
(36 Mos)
54.55°F
(12.53°C)
121ˢᵗ Coolest
1ˢᵗ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest to Date
1917
2018
Nov 14–Oct 18
(48 Mos)
54.36°F
(12.42°C)
120ᵗʰ Coolest
1ˢᵗ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest to Date
1918
2018
Nov 13–Oct 18
(60 Mos)
53.94°F
(12.19°C)
119ᵗʰ Coolest
1ˢᵗ Warmest
Coolest since: 2017
Warmest to Date
1920
2018

Now consider this, the inside of a car even on a cool day in the 70s functions like an oven:

Outside Inside 10 mins Inside 30 mins
70° feels like 89° feels like 104°
80° feels like 99° feels like 114°
90° feels like 109° feels like 124°

Here are the average temperatures by state for the last 29 years:

State Average F Average C Rank State Average F Average C Rank
Florida 70.7 21.5 1 Ohio 50.7 10.4 26
Hawaii 70 21.1 2 Rhode Island 50.1 10.1 27
Louisiana 66.4 19.1 3 Nevada 49.9 9.9 28
Texas 64.8 18.2 4 Connecticut 49 9.4 29
Georgia 63.5 17.5 5 Pennsylvania 48.8 9.3 30
Mississippi 63.4 17.4 6 Nebraska 48.8 9.3 30
Alabama 62.8 17.1 7 Utah 48.6 9.2 32
South Carolina 62.4 16.9 8 Oregon 48.4 9.1 33
Arkansas 60.4 15.8 9 Washington 48.3 9.1 34
Arizona 60.3 15.7 10 Massachusetts 47.9 8.8 35
Oklahoma 59.6 15.3 11 Iowa 47.8 8.8 36
California 59.4 15.2 12 New York 45.4 7.4 37
North Carolina 59 15 13 South Dakota 45.2 7.3 38
Tennessee 57.6 14.2 14 Colorado 45.1 7.3 39
Kentucky 55.6 13.1 15 Idaho 44.4 6.9 40
Delaware 55.3 12.9 16 Michigan 44.4 6.9 40
Virginia 55.1 12.8 17 New Hampshire 43.8 6.6 42
Missouri 54.5 12.5 18 Wisconsin 43.1 6.2 43
Kansas 54.3 12.4 19 Vermont 42.9 6.1 44
Maryland 54.2 12.3 20 Montana 42.7 5.9 45
New Mexico 53.4 11.9 21 Wyoming 42 5.6 46
New Jersey 52.7 11.5 22 Minnesota 41.2 5.1 47
Illinois 51.8 11 23 Maine 41 5 48
West Virginia 51.8 11 23 North Dakota 40.4 4.7 49
Indiana 51.7 10.9 25 Alaska 26.6 -3 50

You can find out more information about average temperatures for your state and city here.

Want to know a secret? These kinds of deaths are preventable. We’ll tell you how.

5 Ways to Prevent Heatstroke

#1 – ACT

  • AAvoid leaving a child alone in a vehicle for any amount of time
  • C – Create a reminder of the child’s presence in a vehicle. Leave something like a child’s toy in the front seat as a reminder. There are also apps available to create a reminder such as Kars4Kids or Baby on Board. Both these apps work using a car’s Bluetooth.
  • T – Take action when witnessing a child left in a car. Many states have Good Samaritan Laws in place that would protect people from damaging a car to rescue an ailing child.

#2 – Always Check the Car Interior before Locking and Leaving

Getting into the habit of always checking your vehicle before locking it will help protect children. Even when a parent knows their child is not in the car, they should continue checking before locking just for that one in a thousand time when their child may be in the car.

Many manufacturers now include the rear seat reminder feature in their vehicles.

#3 – Don’t Let Vehicles Be Play Places

Children should not be allowed to play in cars. They can develop heat exhaustion or heatstroke just as easily while letting themselves in the car to play as they can when being left in the car by an adult.

#4 – Be Extra Alert When out of Routine

Caregivers must be consciously more careful when they are out of a routine, as that’s when the stressors of different circumstances can overtake careful thinking.

#5 – Have a Communication Plan with other Caregivers

A developed plan of having caregivers such as daycare providers call parents if the child doesn’t show up when scheduled can provide a great security net in case a child is forgotten in a car.

Prevention is critical and by following these simple steps, parents and caregivers can avoid that one in a thousand chance that they forget and leave a child in a hot car.

Even as the temperatures cool down this fall, caregivers should make the above tips become habits so that the next time the temperatures rise, they’ll already have a safety net in place to prevent the little ones in their care from suffering heatstroke.

Heatstroke’s Affect on a Child

When a child’s temperature reaches 104 degrees they need medical attention. At hot temperatures, children are unable to control their body temperature leading to organ shock and loss of circulation. Electrolytes are thrown off and a child’s heart can start beating erratically.

KidsHealth recommends the following actions to take when a child appears to be suffering from heatstroke while awaiting emergency response teams:

  • Bring the child indoors or into the shade immediately.
  • Undress the child.
  • Have the child lie down; raise the feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in a lukewarm bath or spray with lukewarm water.
  • If the child is alert and coherent, give frequent sips of cool, clear fluids.
  • If the child is vomiting, turn onto his or her side to prevent choking.

Have you wondered what’s being done to prevent these deaths?

Car Manfucters with Back Seat Reminder

Many car manufacturers have been proactive and offer rear seat reminders. For example:

GMC Chevy Cadillac Buick Nissan
GMC Yukon Chevy Suburban Cadillac CTS-V Buick LaCrosse Nissan Pathfinder
GMC Sierra Chevy Malibu Cadillac Escalade
GMC Terrain Chevy Tahoe Cadillac CTS
GMC Acadia Chevy Equinox Cadillac ESV
GMC Canyon Chevy Colorado Cadillac ATS
GMC Yukon XL Chevy Cruze Hatchback Cadillac CT6
Chevy Cruze
Chevy Silverado

States Laws Concerning Children and Cars

Opening windows is not a good strategy to keep cars cooler as research has shown that vehicles heat up even with window open.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), fewer than half the states in the U.S. have laws to penalize parents for leaving a child in a hot car. Here are the current laws on the books per KidsandCars.org:

  • “California: V C Section 15620 Prohibition Against Unattended Child in Vehicle Read the law
  • Connecticut: Sec 53-21a Leaving child unsupervised in place of public accommodation or vehicle Read the law
  • Florida: FSS 316.6135 Leaving children unattended or unsupervised in motor vehicle Read the law
  • Hawaii: 291C-121.5 Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle Read the law
  • Illinois: Sec. 12 21.6. Endangering the life or health of a child Read the law
  • Kentucky: 507.040 Manslaughter in the Second Degree Read the law
  • Louisiana: RS 32:295.3 Leaving children unattended and unsupervised in motor vehicles Read the law
  • Maryland: 5-801 Unattended Children Read the law
  • Michigan: 750.135a.added Leaving child unattended in vehicle Read the law
  • Missouri: Sec 568.052 Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle who causes an accident Read the law
  • Nebraska: Revised 28-710 Child Protection Act Read the law
  • Nevada: 202.575 Leaving child unattended in motor vehicle Read the law
  • Oklahoma: Unattended Children in Motor Vehicle Safety Act Read the law
  • Pennsylvania: 3701.1. Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle Read the law
  • Rhode Island: § 31-22-22.1. Child passenger protection – Warnings of hazard and risk. Read the law
  • Tennessee: 55-10-803. Offense of leaving child unattended in motor vehicle Read the law
  • Texas: Sec. 22.10. Leaving a child in a vehicle Read the law
  • Utah: 76-10-2202 Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle Read the law
  • Washington: RCW 46.61.685 Leaving children unattended in standing vehicle with motor running Read the law

Nineteen states have laws making it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, and 15 other states have similar laws proposed.

These states have Good Samaritan Laws:

States with Laws Bill No.
Alabama Act No 2017‐241
Arizona HB 2494
California Ann.Cal.Civ.Code § 43.100 (animals only)
Colorado HB17‐1179
Florida HB 131
Idaho SB 1245aa
Indiana HB 1161
Kansas HB 2647
Kentucky SB 16
Massachusetts M.G.L.A. 140 § 174F (animals only)
Missouri HB 1649/SB 896
Ohio SB 215
Oklahoma HB 1902
Oregon HB 2732
South Carolina Act #133 of 2016
Texas HB 478
Tennessee HB 537
Utah HB 152
Vermont H.571 (Act 147)
Virginia HB 2082
Wisconsin AB 308
States with Proposed Laws Bill No.
Connecticut HB 5365
Georgia SB 34
Illinois SB 2294
Michigan HB 6298
Nebraska LB 916 (animals only)
New York S 240
North Carolina HB 896
Pennsylvania SB 782

The NSC is working to get laws with stricter punishments in place for people who leave children in cars. From a ten-year study, they published the following statistics:

  • Confirmed, no charges filed: 68 (16.7 percent)
  • Went to jail: 71 (17.4 percent)
  • Plea deal or conviction with probation and no jail time: 52 (12.7 percent)
  • Charges either dropped or suspect was acquitted: 16 (3.9 percent)
  • No charges filed: 80 (19.6 percent)
  • Charges filed, but result not known: 60 (14.7 percent)
  • Unknown outcome: 61 (15 percent)

Unfortunately, the majority of children who die of heatstroke in a vehicle were not left intentionally. Usually, the parent or caregiver forgets the child is in the car. Stricter penalties will not help them remember.

That’s one reason the bill, Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act of 2017 or the HOT CARS Act of 2017 has been introduced to the House and Senate but is stuck there.

The HOT CARS Act would require manufacturers to install an alarm system into cars to remind caregivers to not leave children in the car unattended.

Likely, it will not pass because although there are a couple of intrinsic flaws which would not allow the goal of keeping kids safe be reached.

  • Of new car buyers, less than 13 percent have a child under six years old. Required technology that benefits only a few will cost manufacturers a lot of money that the majority of buyers will not be willing to pay for.
  • It would take about 20 years before all cars on the road would have that technology.

Also, some states require alarm systems in daycare vehicles or school buses. Those include:

States with Laws Bill No. Bill No. States with Proposed Laws Bill No.
California SB‐1072 Florida SB 247 / HB 419
Tennessee SB 3258 / HB 3368 Michigan H( B 4901 )
Texas HB 1741
Wisconsin SB 141

Methodology

Data was gathered from NoHeatStroke.org and for each state, the following is considered:

  • Total Number of Child Vehicular Heatstroke Fatalities in 2018
  • Average Temperature (F) at the time of child fatalities
  • Average Age of Children (in months)
  • Total Number of Child Vehicular Heatstroke Fatalities Since 1998

We also consulted the NOAA:

  • NOAA National Centers for Environmental information, Climate at a Glance: National Time Series, published November 2018, retrieved on November 26, 2018 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/

Media Inquries About Our Study

– For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes

References:
  1. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/03/health/hot-car-deaths-child-charts-graphs-trnd/index.html
  2. https://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/hot-car-fatalities-year-round-threat-to-children-pets-heat-stroke/
  3. http://www.aappublications.org/content/36/8/33.4
  4. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/national/rankings/110/tavg/201810
  5. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/?Set-Language=en
  6. https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/alabama/united-states/3170
  7. https://www.thestate.com/news/article215296425.html
  8. https://www.kars4kids.org/safety-app/
  9. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=bebeabordonativa.android.hispamedia.biz.bebeabordonativa&hl=en_US
  10. https://globalnews.ca/news/2142475/heres-what-happens-to-your-body-when-youre-left-in-a-hot-car/
  11. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke-sheet.html
  12. https://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/gm-child-reminder-feature-simple-clever-way-to-save-lives/
  13. https://patch.com/virginia/delray/virginia-found-lacking-protections-kids-left-hot-cars
  14. https://www.kidsandcars.org/resources/state-laws/
  15. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/California-state-law.pdf
  16. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/connecticut-state-law.pdf
  17. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/florida-state-law.pdf
  18. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/hawaii-state-law.pdf
  19. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/illinois-state-law.pdf
  20. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/kentucky-state-law.pdf
  21. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/louisiana-state-law.pdf
  22. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/maryland-state-law.pdf
  23. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/michigan-state-law.pdf
  24. http://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/missouri-state-law.pdf
  25. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/nebraska-state-law.pdf
  26. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/nevada-state-law.pdf
  27. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/oklahoma-state-law.pdf
  28. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/pennsylvania-state-law.pdf
  29. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-22/31-22-22.1.HTM
  30. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/tennessee-state-law.pdf
  31. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/texas-state-law.pdf
  32. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/utah-state-law.pdf
  33. https://www.kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/washington-state-law.pdf
  34. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1666
  35. https://govtrackinsider.com/hot-cars-act-would-mandate-a-flashing-and-beeping-warning-for-drivers-who-leave-children-in-their-6a8f583a8090
  36. http://noheatstroke.org/
  37. http://www.noheatstroke.org/state.htm
  38. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/

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