Fort Worth, Texas,
09:30 AM

Never leave your child alone in a car

8 things you can do to prevent a tragedy

So far this year, 21 children have died in the United States as a result of being left in a hot car, according to the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science. The most recent case happened over the weekend in Dallas when a 3-year-old boy was reportedly left in a Honda Pilot in a church parking lot. 

Last year, 24 kids died in the U.S. and from 1998 to present, 676 children have died.

“What’s heartbreaking is that this is a serious public health issue that is totally preventable,” said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “Every mom and dad out there must realize it can happen to you. Texas leads the nation in child heat-related car deaths.”

Parents may mistakenly think they can safely leave a child in a vehicle for a “quick” errand, but that’s simply not true. Temperatures inside the car can be 20 or more degrees hotter than the temperature outside, rising to dangerous levels in minutes. Unfortunately, it only takes a few minutes for tragedy to occur.

Safe Kids Worldwide says that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children.

“Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults,” Walraven said. “When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature may increase 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult. This could cause permanent injury or death.”

Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.

Safe Kids recommend the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy to your child or to a child you see left in a car:

  • A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

It’s difficult to think that as parents, we could “forget” our children, but it happens each year with no exception to socioeconomic or education level. Often times, a change in routine, a distraction along the way, or the event a child falls quietly asleep, unseen, in the back seat, allows for a parent/caregiver to “forget” and leave a child in the car.

Here are some important tips to help prevent unintentional injury to your child:

  1. Dial 911 if you see an unattended child in a car. Sometimes, people don’t want to get involved or just assume the parents are on the way out. But as you read earlier, it doesn’t take long for a child to die in a hot car. If you see a child or children alone in a car without an adult, call 911 immediately.
  2. Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, even for 1 minute. Windows left slightly open will not affect rising temperatures in the car.
  3. Set safe habits: leave a cell phone, purse, briefcase, etc. in the back seat before driving, forcing you to always check the back seat and see a child is/is not back there.
  4. Program your cell phone and/or computer to remind you to drop off your child each day.
  5. Have a plan with your daycare provider to contact you within a few minutes of being late or absent. Let your daycare know that you want them to call you if you are late or you have not called in saying your child will not be in that day.
  6. Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
  7. Lock all car doors, even at home.
  8. If a child goes missing, always check the cars and trunks.

Learn more by clicking here. Also, visit for the latest on heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.

For more information

Every year children are rushed to the emergency room to be treated for car related injuries, many don't even involve traffic or another car. Some injuries occur without the car ever leaving the driveway. Click here for some of the top dangers to be aware of and the key things you can do to help make your car safer for your kids.


Comments 1 - 2 (2)
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Dana Walraeven
Rachel, Cook Children's encourages the health and safety of children and therefore we share best practices for preventing child death and injury since heat stroke statistics show: 54 percent of children were forgotten and 29 percent were playing in an unattended vehicle and became trapped. Best Practice and the law lean toward our message of creating safe habits. When the sun is out, and even on cloudy days, the inside of a car can become much hotter than the temperature outside. In just 10 minutes a car can heat up 19 degrees. On an 80 degree day, the inside of a closed car can quickly exceed 100 degrees. Cracking a window does not help keep the inside of a car cool. Thank you.
I don't think extremist perspectives really help this problem - common sense needs to apply. It's 90 degrees outside and you're parked in the sun and turn the car off? Definitely take the child out of the car. In the shade, with the car on and the air conditioning running? Surely a parent can run inside the gas station for 30 seconds without endangering the child. When I've sat in the shade with the A/C running for over 30 minutes and didn't even break a sweat, it just seems hysterical to claim that you can "NEVER leave your child, not even for a minute." Obviously you can't leave your child while you do a week's worth of grocery shopping, but 10 steps away refilling your water bottle? The world - and the laws of physics and thermodynamics - do not operate in black & white.