Don’t Leave You Child in the Car

Summer is here and temperatures are rising. Everyone knows not to leave their child in the car on a hot day, but you should NEVER leave your baby/toddler/child alone in the car ever. Even on a warm, but not hot, day it is dangerous. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. Even with the windows rolled down, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degrees fahrenheit in only minutes. Leaving the windows open does not slow the heating process or help the car to be cooler. 

I know it is tempting to leave your child in the car while you run into the store for just one item. I know it is hard to wake up the child who is sleeping in their car seat, when all you need is to run into the bank for just a minute. Especially if that child never naps, or hasn’t been sleeping well, or will only sleep in the car. I know it is hard when your young child would rather stay in the car to play a game, and throws a fit when you tell them to go inside with you. I know how easy it is to give in and let your child stay in the car, let them play and be happy, let them sleep, let them stay so it takes you less time inside. In all of these circumstances, the best thing you can do for your child is to wake them up and take them with you, make them come with you, let them throw their fit. You should never, ever leave your child in the car alone.  There should be no exceptions. A child should NEVER be left in a car alone, no matter how briefly. I know I always take longer in the store than I think I would. Do not leave your child in the car while you run into the store, even if they are asleep. 

The parents who leave their children in the car are often very good parents otherwise. They often dote on their children and wish no harm on their child. But even good parents make mistakes. Leaving your child in the car is most definitely a mistake. In many cases, it is the biggest mistake of that parents life. 

When I am tempted to leave my sweet child in the car, I stop and think. I think, “If something happened to my baby, would it be worth the 5 minutes I saved by not taking her out of the car and bringing her with me? Would it be worth her getting an extra few minutes to nap? Would it be worth skipping a tantrum because she doesn’t want to come in the store?” Inevitably, the answer is NO! It is NOT worth it. Maybe you are thinking, “I have left my child in the car by themselves many times! Nothing bad has happened!” If so, you are very lucky. Maybe in your circumstances, nine times out of ten, nothing will happen. But on that tenth time, when something does happen, is it worth it??? I know I personally try to do everything I can to keep my baby safe. Leaving her in the car alone, while I may have good motives, would definitely not be keeping her safe. 

“There is no safe amount of time to leave children alone in the car,” says Nathan Allen, MD, an emergency medicine doctor at the University of Chicago. “Kids are more susceptible and at higher risk for heat-related illness and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as adults.” 

Just a few minutes can be extremely dangerous, even fatal, for a child. You never know what can go wrong. 

“Parents leave children in a car for lack of understanding about how sick they can get and how quickly they can get sick,” says Christopher Haines, DO, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

“On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes,” he says.

Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature passes 104 degrees fahrenheit. This high temperature overwhelms the brain’s temperature control which causes symptoms such as dizziness, agitation, sluggishness, disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures and death. 

On average, thirty eight (38!!!) children die PER YEAR i from heat related deaths from being in a hot car. That is 38 preventable deaths! That is 38 people who are grieving over a mistake they made, a mistake that could have been prevented. 38 families who will never get to watch that child grow up, never reach some milestones in that child’s life. 38 unnecessary deaths. 


As of June 9, 2014 there have been at least nine (9!) heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles; seven confirmed as heatstroke and the other two are still pending offical findings by the medical examiner.

Last year, 2013, there were over forty four (44!) deaths of children in vehicles, thirty nine of those were confirmed as heatstroke and five were most likely heatstroke. Data and studies show these incidents can occur on days with a milk temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Vehicles can reach life threatening temperatures very quickly. 

  • Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2014:  9
  • Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2013:  44
  • Total number of U.S. heatstroke  deaths of children left in cars, 1998-present:  615
  • Average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998: 38

  • Circumstances
    • An examination of media reports about the 606 child vehicular heatstroke deaths for an fourteen year period (1998 through 2013) shows the following circumstances:
      • 52% – child “forgotten” by caregiver (316 Children)
      • 29% – child playing in unattended vehicle (175)
      • 18% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult  (108)
      • 1% – circumstances unknown (6)

  • Ages
    The children that have died from vehicular heatstroke in the United States (1998-2013) 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 percentage of total deaths (and the number of deaths) sorted by age.
    • Less than 1 year old = 31% (184)
    • 1-year old = 22% (134)
    • 2-years old = 20% (118)
    • 3-years old = 14% (84)
    • 4-years old = 6% (35)
    • 5-years old = 3% (19)
    • 6-years old = 2% (9)
    • 7-years old = < 1% (3)
    • 8-years old = 1% (3)
    • 9-years old = < 1% (2)
    • 10-years old = 1% (3)
    • 11-years old = < 1% (2)
    • 12-years old = < 1% (1)
    • 13-years old = < 1% (1)
    •  14-years old = < 1% (3) 
    • Unknown = < 1% (2)

What should you do if you see a child alone in a car? CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY! Yell, scream, shout! Bring as many people to that car as you can. You never know who might be a trained medical professional. Break a window! Save that child! So many people are afraid of breaking a car window when they see a child left alone in the car. Yes, it is wrong to damage someones property. But in this case, it is necessary! I am sure that parent would be happier to have a broken window than a dead or severely injured child. 


I must warn you, the following video is very difficult to watch. It is a reenactment, nobody was hurt during the filming of the video. I must confess, I was crying by the end of the video. (Okay, I might’ve cried within the first minute.) 

Please, I beg of you, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILD IN THE CAR. Even just for a moment. Even if they are asleep and your sleep deprived body wants to let them continue to sleep. PLEASE, bring your child with you! 


This video is a wonderful video of an adult sitting in a hot car for 30 minutes. He does this so he can tell you what it feels like to be inside of a hot car for 30 minutes. Please take a look at this. This is NOT what you want for your child.


“You can make all the excuses you want. Its not that hot, or I am only going to be out for a second, but unless you’re in the car too, your child or pet do not belong in that car.”
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