Concerns About Child Deaths from Heat Stroke Grows

March 14, 2011

- Trend Rising for Deaths of Children in Cars and Trucks

AUSTIN, Texas, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Sadly, March 8th marked the first child vehicular tragedy of the year when a mother came out of work only to realize she left her 6 month year old in the car. This preventable, yet horrific accident occurs more often than one would think.

The number of heat stroke deaths of children being unattended in vehicles is trending upward, with 49 deaths in 2010, the worst year on record. Since recordkeeping began in 1998 there have been at least 494 of these needless tragedies. Safe Kids USA, the General Motors Foundation and their partners are launching a national education and awareness program to help reduce the number of child deaths in cars and trucks caused by heat stroke.

Surprisingly, these tragic incidents can occur on days with relatively mild temperatures because vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly. In just 10 minutes, a vehicle’s interior temperature can rise 19 degrees F. In one to two hours it can rise 45-50 degrees F.

A child’s temperature regulating system is not as developed as an adult’s. Consequently, a child’s body temperatures can warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. Children have died from heat stroke in a vehicle with outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees F.

Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their temperature regulating system is overwhelmed. Symptoms can include: dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations. A core body temperature of 107 degrees F is considered lethal as cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.

Here are heat stroke statistics through the 2010 calendar year, most courtesy of Jan Null, CCM, Adjunct Professor of Meteorology, San Francisco State University.


  • Total number of U.S. hyperthermia deaths of children left in cars, 2010: 49
  • Total number of U.S. hyperthermia deaths of children left in cars, 1998-2010: 494
  • Average number of U.S. child hyperthermia fatalities per year since 1998: 38


  • An examination of media reports about the 494 child vehicular heat stroke deaths for a 13 year period (1998 through 2010) shows the following circumstances:
    • 51% – child “forgotten” by caregiver (253 Children)
    • 30% – child playing in unattended vehicle (150)
    • 17% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult (86)
    • 1% – circumstances unknown (5)
  • Ages

Children that have died from vehicular heat stroke in the United States (1998-2010) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years. More than half of the deaths are children under 2 years of age. Below are the numbers of deaths sorted by age.

                           DEATHS by AGE
    Less than 1 year   4-years old   8-years old   12-years old
        old = 151         = 28           = 2           = 1
                       5-years old   9-years old   13-years old
    1-year old = 113      = 15           = 2           = 1
      2-years old =    6-years old    10-years     14-years old
           102             = 9         old = 3         = 2
                       7-years old    11-years
    3-years old = 62       = 2         old = 2    Unknown = 2


  • Only 18 states have laws prohibiting leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • The remaining 32 states do not have laws specifically against leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
    • Currently seven states have proposed legislation that would make it a crime to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
    • Another seven states have had previously proposed unattended child laws.

For up-to-date statistics on child heat stroke deaths, please visit www.ggweather.com/heat.

* Call 911 if you see an unattended child in a car.

* Lock your car when you leave.

* Never leave your child alone in a car.

About Safe Kids USA

Safe Kids USA is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and 19 member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. For more information visit www.safekids.org.

About the General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids Buckle Up

Beginning in 1997, General Motors and the GM Foundation have served as Safe Kids Buckle Up’s exclusive funding source and helped build the program into a multifaceted national initiative, bringing motor vehicle safety messages to children and families through community and dealer partnerships. To date, more than 21 million people have been exposed to Safe Kids Buckle Up events and community outreach efforts. Certified child passenger safety technicians working through Safe Kids coalitions have examined 1.28 million child safety seats at 65,399 events and the program has donated 457,134 seats to families in need.

Since its inception in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to deserving American charities, educational organizations and to disaster relief efforts worldwide. The GM Foundation focuses on supporting Education, Health and Human Services, Environment and Energy and Community Development initiatives, mainly in the communities where GM operates. For more information, visit www.gm.com/corporate/responsibility/community.

SOURCE Safe Kids Worldwide

Source: newswire

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