July 7th, 2010
08:44 AM ET

Don't leave your child in the car

As temperatures continue climbing in the Northeast, one deadly hazard to be aware of is leaving a child in a car.

At the end of June, 20 children had died in the United States of heat stroke in 2010, said Jan Null, a meteorologist at San Francisco State University.

Null keeps track of child hyperthermia deaths in motor vehicles on this website. It gets updated every time there is a report of a child dying from heat stroke in a car, he said. Hyperthermia is another name for heatstroke.

According to Null's data, 20 is the highest number of fatalities that has been seen this early in the year since at least 1998, the first year deaths are tracked on Null's website. Since 1998 there have been a total of 465 recorded deaths of children dying of heat stroke in vehicles.

"The idea is to make people aware that this is an epidemic," Null said.

A child can die of heatstroke in a car even if the weather outside isn't that warm, Null said. In fact, within an hour, the temperature in an unmoving car can rise 40 degrees above what it is outside. In other words, a child can be trapped in a 115-degree car on a 75-degree day, resulting in death for an infant or small child.

Read the stories of parents who've experienced this tragedy and reasons why it can happen.

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. ThisIsSad!

    I also believe this could happen to anyone. Please don't not assume it won't happen to you; create a proactive fail-proof plan. Sleep deprivation and stress can cause you to do things you wouldn't otherwise. So sorry to the victims of these tragedies.

    July 7, 2010 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • julie

      NO, it CAN NOT happen to anyone...your child and his safety should be 1st and foremost on your mind before your job, spouse, shopping etc...I found 2 very small children left in a car this past weekend in front of the grovery store in 100 plus heat! I was madder than a hornet and demanded the clerk in the store page overhead...we went outside where I was going to remove the children and call the police, but the culprit must have heard my ranting and was already gone ...lucky for them becasue I was ready to kick their A**

      July 7, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
    • MissingCCL


      "NO, it CAN NOT happen to anyone..." OH YES>>> YES It Can

      In August of 2008 I lost my son, Christian, after my mother mistakenly forgot to drop him off at Daycare. He was discovered 10 hours later after having succumb to vehicular hyperthermia. I know that not one parent believes that this could ever happen to them, and that just the thought of it seems impossible, however I can tell you, that my baby was dearly loved by everyone... My mother was not under the influence of anything other then a change in her routine and I know in my heart that my mother would never have hurt my boy on purpose. I think it is time to stop judging those parents that this happens to and open our eyes to see that this danger is real, and the threat exists to even the most over protective parents... such as myself. August 13, 2008 was the very first time I had ever let anyone handle something that I considered to be my responsibility... and for that sudden change... I am among those who now know without a doubt That it can happen to me, you, anyone... I urge you, even if you personally do not believe that it could... ask yourself what harm it would do to simply take the extra precautions to insure that it doesn't happen to anyone you care about.

      July 9, 2010 at 02:26 | Report abuse |
  2. Ronnie Beth Herbst

    Please also don't bring your pets in the car as well! Dogs can suffocate and die in this heat as well, even if you think you'll be a few minutes.

    July 7, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. No Excuse

    How can you forget that you have a child with you – wouldn't it be common sense to check on them – (looking in your mirror)Hello!! It's not about being a "super parent"... Only an individual without children who comment back with that. I've went with 2 hours of sleep to work and yet I have never forgotten about my child – I have changed my schedule and shifts and still I never forgot about my child... Not only did this mother not check her car before she got in it... she even went shopping. No excuses – Take the warning labels off everything and let the problem take care of it's self... GOD help our innocent children!!!!

    July 7, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Back to "imacat"

    iamacat <- you are SO wrong. NO ONE here is claiming moral superiority – so get off your high horse. I had more then one small child.. infact I had several who were 13 months apart... and I couldn't forget any of my babies... EVER... I was the type of mother who never let her babies out of her sight and even on the stressful days with having mutiple children my mind couldn't focus on anything BUT them. I can't believe this mother never called the daycare to see how her child was feeling... but she called home to check on the 4 year old?

    Putting a solar powered fan in the car to put an end to those preventible accidents once and for all? Are you serious? That would be a good thing for little fingers to find their way into...Why don't you get someone to wipe your back end of you to. It's "unforgetable" alright.

    July 7, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Response to ElleB23

    "Spew" my hate? No – am just stating the obvious. I feel aweful for the father & the boy who is not left without a son/brother due to the neglect.

    Anyone who comments on this story should have to tell us 1. if you're a parent ((*yes I am to 5 children*)) and 2. if you have ever had shared responsibility of dropping a child off. ((*Yes again... and again... happens quite often actually*)) Oh... and I never forgot any of my children. In the heat.. in the cold.. indoors or out. HMMM!!! Imagine that. Just a note... "JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN BREED DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD!"

    July 7, 2010 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Francesca

    I consider myself a responsible parent, but the one thing I always said I would "never understand", happened to me. When my daughter, Kennedie, was 3 months old, we forgot her in the car.
    As a working wife and mother of three I know how easy it is to become distracted and forget even the most important things. My husband, son (10 years old at the time) and I went to grocery store one evening and as we were chatting about our day, we got out of the car, locked the doors and walked into the store. As my son and I made our way to the bakery, he picked up a container and asked: "Mom, why do they call it Angel Food cake?" I immediately thought of my daughter and as I sprinted to the car I yelled: "Get daddy!" I was sobbing before I even made it to the car. I unlocked the doors and grabbed Kennedie out of her car seat–she was asleep and completely unaware of what had just happened.
    We were extremely blessed because we realized our mistake within a few minutes and it was December...the range of temperatures for a Houston winter is between 50 and 60 degrees. The guilt was tremendous and the experience was enough to magnify my OCD tendencies! I went to Target the next day and bought a baby car mirror that allowed me to see Kennedie every time I looked in the rearview mirror. I've also made an arrangement with my daycare center that if my kids are not there at their usual time to please call me. And if it's my husband's turn to drop off, I call him and ask: How were the girls this morning?
    I never thought it could happen to me, but it did. The reality is that this year there have been at least twenty-two deaths of infants and children who were left inside a hot vehicle–51% of those children were accidentally left in the car by a caregiver.

    As I listen to the radio on my way to work everyday and hear a loud screech followed by: "This is a test of the emergency broadcast system...", I hope to hear a public service announcement reminding parents and others caring for small children not to forget their children in the car. It would be the one interruption I would welcome any time of the day.

    Stay cool and keep your kids safe.

    July 7, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Frox

    20 kids a year is an epidemic? Really? Aren't we overstating things just a bit? Don't get me wrong, it's something every parent should be aware of, and my heart goes out to those victims. But let's keep things in perspective hear. There are much worse things facing our children (and parents) today than this.

    July 7, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MissingCCL

      even one child is too many

      July 9, 2010 at 02:27 | Report abuse |
  8. tonya

    I have been a nanny for 20+ yrs. Many parents who adopt kids really don't have the attachment that REAL parents do. I have seen them leave them in hot cars, outside with no coats in the winter, forget to feed them dinner all kinds of stuff. The kids are more a piece of property than a responsibility to them to an adoptive parent. If the parent is cool or warm the kid must be just fine. YOU have a coat on, the child is 13 months old and in a t-shirt with a little blanket on when you take that 2 hour stroll through the park in the dead of winter. Trust me a lot of parents don't care. In this day an age this number will climb into the thousands each year.

    July 7, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chels

      "Many parents who adopt kids really don't have the attachment that REAL parents do" An adoptive parent is a REAL parent. Your assumptions of adoptive parents is a sad one. You may have had a bad experience with adoptive parents but please don't assume that even "many" are like that.

      July 7, 2010 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
  9. dennis

    Why do people defend idiotic parents like this? They just keep saying, "Oh it can happen to anyone". If you are not ready to put your child and your child's safety ahead of everything else in your life, you should not have children. How the hell did she drive around everywhere not even knowing the child was in the car? I feel horrible for the child, but not for her.

    July 7, 2010 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ladysky61

    I feel bad for the parents. However, we have solutions to solve this problem. Why aren't alarm systems that indicate if someone is still belted in after the parent parks, gets out and starts to walk away? (say a buzzing noise goes off after 10 seconds then turns into a loud car alarm after a minute or 2.) Yes, it would be annoying, but it would solve the problem once and for all. We already have alarm systems that alert you if you leave the light on (can't tell you how many times I would forget without it...) or if your seatbelt isn't belted. So the technology and precedent is still there.

    People shouldn't be allowed to opt out either, some such thing should be standard on all new vehicles and provided at free or low cost to drivers of older cars. Even older people who don't have children may end up driving a young relative. (or sell it to someone who has kids).

    July 7, 2010 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Chels

    I am a parent, I have had shared responibility dropping off my children and I am fully aware that this could happen to me! I love my children more than anything, and I feel I am a good parent. I have always been aware of this and I make sure to always check the backseat of the car before I get out. I don't feel for one minute that these parents ever ment to hurt their children, but they did, and it is horrible. I hope that people read this and educate themselves on how to prevent it from happening to them.

    July 7, 2010 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. tv repair nh

    HOW'S THIS FOR AN IDEA? I also contacted Graco about this Idea but they wouldn't litsen. Why not make a child's car seat with a strobe beacon or RF transmitter built inside of the car seat? It could be charged by solar power. When the temperature rises in the car and the seat senses the weight of the child, an RF transmitter or strobe beacon will call for help in that situation saving the child. I have a working prototype!! Get the word out!! http://www.tvrepairnh.com

    July 7, 2010 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chels

      It sounds like a life saving idea.

      July 7, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
    • Chels

      It would be better if your website was about the idea though.

      July 7, 2010 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  13. Rachael

    People here are being incredibly judgmental. My parents have forgotten me a few times...in stores, not the car, but it's still forgetting a child. They are excellent parents. It only takes a second to make a dreadful mistake. Don't assume it will never happen. Turning your back on a kid in a pool...leaving a cupboard with drain cleaner unlocked...forgetting a kid in a car. Parents are human. Most of these deaths, I bet, were not caused by "bad parents", but by an incredibly foolish mistake that they will regret the rest of their lives.

    July 8, 2010 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Terry

    I know we ALL make mistakes because we're human. However, leaving a child for 20 minutes in a car is maybe excusable but to forget a child for a WHOLE WORKDAY? I can't imagine it. I have an adult, mentally ill child. She now lives semi-independently and is in college. I was a full-time working mom/single parent while she was a toddler until she turned 18. On many occasions, I was overwhelmed–especially since she was hospitalized several times and had terrible mood swings. However, I never did anything so careless. I just don't understand why the parents are sometimes portrayed as 'the victims' since they have to live with regret the rest of their lives. The true victims are these helpless children.

    If these parents have so much on their plates, they'd better get some help–whether it be alarms in their cars; more help from family or friends; or whatever it takes. Such behavior is inexcusable.

    July 8, 2010 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Melissa

    How about this, why don't mothers (or fathers) stay at home with their children. I have yet to hear of this happening to someone who is at home full time with their child.
    They are always working moms of multiple children. Is that extra income REALLY worth it?
    And the Nanny that spoke earlier...she is a Nanny! Obviously both parents work so they hire someone else to raise their child.
    I think it is time we step back and realize the implications of becoming a PARENT and not just someone who births a child to fulfill some idea.
    I stay home with my child, know what she is doing 24hrs a day (she's 2). we make sacrifices to do this because her health, well-being and happiness is my life. that is why I had a child. To raise her. not to pay other people to raise her.

    July 8, 2010 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Overhead proofer

    thanks for the great.Thisi post really help the parents.

    February 26, 2011 at 05:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Zak

    The paradox is that parents that say "I will never forget my kid in the back seat, it will never happen to me" – are exactly the risk group of leaving their kids in the car. Today you can purchase all kind of systems to help you remember from a clip that attached to the key chain (http://www.bobbabysafe.com/) to high end electronical devices.
    No excuse for leaving your kid in the back seat.

    March 22, 2014 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. anna walls

    ok,what do you do when you report a person to cps,and the regional office of cps for leaving a child two times that we know of.cause if their doing it and they've been seen,their going to keep doing it.so what has to happen,its to late for i'm sorries,or we failed you.it is really sickining.i'm so fed up.but let it be me.they'd throw away the key.theres something really wrong with this picture.whats it going to take to prove a point.get in the car myself when the child is left alone.you think they'll listen to me then?i've also reported to local police,officer said i'll have a talk with the person.a talk yeah right.he that person its the second time they've been seen.reported twice to cps too.was on the phone for two hours to regional office of cps.what a waste of time.but the crap they tell you.animals have more rights than a child.nothing against animals.because thier innocent by standers too.oh the child was left there for probably a minute.well thats when i snapped.you all tell us if we see a child or a animal call the officals.that it only takes a few seconds for someone to take off with the car.this is sickening. some one please help me.i'm at my witts end.please step up lawyers,cps?

    July 29, 2014 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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  20. Sarah L Dixon

    Never leave your children in the car. Even where and how fast you'll go out, always remember to not leave your baby at the car.

    November 17, 2014 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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