How can people forget their child is in the car?

It shouldn’t happen, but it does. In 2010, 49 children died of hyperthermia from being left in cars. So far this year, 19 children have died.

According to Jan Null of San Francisco State University*, a study of 494 hyperthermia deaths in children found that 51% were forgotten by a caregiver, another 30% were playing in an unattended vehicle and 17% were intentionally left in the car by an adult. The majority of children who died were 2 years old or younger.

What struck me most about reading some of these accounts is that the death of a child from hyperthermia can happen to any parent or family. Most of us are busy. Many of us are stressed. Sometimes we have to change our usual routines. Sometimes we get an emergency phone call. And sometimes, the unthinkable “I-would-never-do that” really does happen to us.

So rather than dismissing hyperthermia as something that won’t happen, why not take some simple precautions to be certain.

It only takes a minute to . . .

  • Ask your child’s babysitter or caregiver to call you immediately if your child does not arrive on time.
  • Put something you need—like a cell phone, briefcase, or backpack—in the back seat to remind you your child is riding with you.
  • Routinely check the back seat every time you park.
  • Remove a sleeping child from his or her car seat. (It is always better to wake them than to leave them in the car.)
  • Lock your car and make sure children do not have access to your keys.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if you see a child left alone in a car, especially on a warm day.
  • Check the pool first if a child is missing and then any vehicles, including the trunk.

To help prevent more deaths from hyperthermia, we have just launched a variety of hyperthermia awareness materials—you can take a closer look by clicking here. (Our favorite is the display with the wireless thermometer. The display comes with a sensor you put inside the car so people can see the actual temperature difference inside and outside the car.)

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to call us at 877-669-7233, ext. 205.

We’re here for your success,


Wendy W. Gordon

*Source: Jan Null, CCM, Department of Geoscience, San Francisco State University,