On average, 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car and the end result can be injury or even death.

It is important to remember to use precaution with your kids and pets in hot cars every day, especially in a city like Houston where there can be mild to hot temperatures year round.

Hot Car Facts

  • The temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.
  • When the outside temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit after just 10 minutes the temperature inside a car can climb to 104, after 20 minutes to 114, and it keeps climbing.
  • Children overheat four times faster than adults.
  • Remember your pets too! According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, every year hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles.

Why Does the Temperature Inside the Car Increase so Quickly?

  • The temperature inside a car increases rapidly due to the greenhouse effect. This natural phenomenon is caused by the sun's rays entering through the cars windows and heating the surfaces inside the vehicle. When the windows of the car are closed there is no way for the heat to escape which causes the temperature inside the vehicle to rise at a rapid rate.

What Happens When a Child Is Left in a Hot Car?

  • In a matter of MINUTES, they will experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke, leading to permanent disability or death.
  • Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, can cause:
    • Shock
    • Seizures
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Heart attack
    • Damage to the brain, liver and kidneys

Why Are Children Being Left in Cars?

In general, kids are being left in a car for one of four reasons:

  1. The parent or guardian is doing something that is not part of their normal routine. For example, if mom always takes little Bobby to daycare but today she has an early meeting so dad needs to take him – this is out of dad’s normal routine, so he might easily forget that Bobby is in the backseat, especially if Bobby is being quiet.
  2. If the parent or guardian is distracted. Hopefully you’re not texting and driving – but this could be a number of other distractions – you’re on your phone, you’re listening to the radio, or even something as simple as you’re just lost in thought. It might be easy to forget your sleeping baby in the backseat. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. A less common but still just as dangerous scenario is when the kids somehow find their own way into the car. Perhaps it’s parked in the garage, and you’re in the other room and don’t realize little Bobby has found his way into the car because he’s looking for one of his toys. Ten minutes later, you realize you don’t see Bobby and you can’t find him anywhere. He’s locked himself in the car, but by the time you find him – it might be too late.
  4. The fourth most common occurrence for leaving kids in the car is when the parent or guardian does it on purpose. It’s not malicious – they think: I’ll crack the windows, I’ll run inside, I’ll only be a minute. A long checkout line quickly turns those five minutes into ten, and no errand is worth the life of your child.

What Are Some Safety Tips to Avoid Leaving a Child in a Hot Car?

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind that we hope will help do away with any and all of these potential situations:

  • DON’T FORGET TO CHECK THE BACKSEAT! Put something back there that you will need like your purse or briefcase, maybe one of your shoes, or better yet – your cell phone!
  • Also try placing something in the front seat to remind you that your child is in the car, such as one of the child’s shoes or a stuffed animal.
  • To avoid the situation of your kids getting in your car without you knowing, always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to the keys or remote entry devices. Children should be taught that cars are not a place for play.

Hopefully by remembering to follow these important safety tips, together, we can prevent any of these unnecessary tragedies from happening.

Is It Against the Law to Leave a Child in a Car?

The answer is yes.

The Texas Penal Code clearly states: “A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowingly that the child is:

  • Younger than seven years of age and/or
  • Not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older."

The serious consequences one could face if convicted are a Class C misdemeanor (citation) up to a felony offense, depending on the circumstances and or injuries a child may incur while left alone in a vehicle.

What Should I Do If I See a Child Left Unattended in a Car?

  • Immediately call 9-1-1 should you see a child left unattended in a car.
  • If you believe the child is in imminent danger due to being left in a car, first check for unlocked doors. If necessary, break a window farthest from the child as to prevent further injury.

Additional Resources

For more information regarding hot car safety, please visit Safercar.gov.

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