Don’t Leave Anyone in Cars During Hot Months

As temperatures across the country continue to climb this summer and states begin to reopen, the National Safety Council is calling on Americans to educate themselves about the dangers of pediatric vehicular heatstroke and how to prevent it. This is not a traffic safety area in which the U.S. can call itself a leader; in 2018 and 2019, we set painful records for the number of children dying in hot vehicles.1 Already this year, at least six children in the U.S. have died from being in a hot vehicle.2

Pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths occur when a caregiver forgets a child in a vehicle, the child gains access to a vehicle or someone knowingly leaves a child in a vehicle. Often when caregivers forget a child, they are outside of their regular routine, under stress or have experienced a lack of sleep, which is not uncommon for new parents. Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more vehicles have been sitting idle, and already this year three children have died after gaining access to unlocked vehicles. But parents and caregivers can take simple steps to help eliminate these preventable deaths:

  • All drivers should keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access.
  • Teach children that cars are not play areas.
  • Create a habit of always checking the backseat before leaving your vehicle.
  • Place a purse, briefcase or cell phone in the backseat of a vehicle, which can force drivers to look before they lock.
  • Never leave a child in a vehicle when running errands, not even for a minute. Rolling down a window does little to keep a vehicle cool, and heatstroke deaths have occurred even in vehicles parked in shaded areas. There is no safe time period for leaving a child in a vehicle. This holds true even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Keep a stuffed animal or another memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty. Move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
  • Set a rule for your child care provider; have them call you if your child doesn’t arrive as scheduled.

Heading into summer, Hyundai Motor America wants to remind everyone to check the rear seats when exiting a vehicle. This simple act can help prevent child deaths from heatstroke in vehicles.

“It only takes a second to check the back seat and save a child’s life on a hot summer day,” said Brian Latouf, chief safety officer, Hyundai Motor North America. “We have great systems to help drivers remember to do just that, but there are lots of methods that work. All of them can save a life.”

To do its part, Hyundai is voluntarily making its Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) door-logic system standard on most of its new vehicles by 2022. It recently added standard ROA to the 2020 Sonata and Sonata Hybrid and will add the system to the all-new 2021 Elantra, by the end of the year. Hyundai will also make its optional Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert, or a similar sensor-based system, available on more of its models in the future. It is available today in the popular Palisade and Santa Fe SUVs, vehicles most driven by families with young children.

NHTSA and Hyundai are now calling on the public via social media to help prevent children from dying in hot cars this summer.

Bystanders can also play an important role in saving a life – if you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911 and get help immediately.

In addition, employers have an important role to play in curbing this issue, as 25% of these deaths occur in workplace parking lots while the parent or caregiver is at work.3 Use the free NSC Children in Hot Cars training to understand how to mitigate the risks. Free monthly prevention newsletters on this topic are also now available.

In an era where we never forget our cell phones, we are too frequently forgetting our most precious passengers. By taking steps to prevent pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths, we can all help the U.S. avoid surpassing one of the saddest records in roadway safety history.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.