Hot Car Fatalities Are a Threat to Children and Pets All-Year-Round, Consumer Reports Says

You’ve likely heard about children or pets perishing inside hot cars over the years. It’s a more significant safety issue than most people realize. They don’t know that hot car fatalities are a threat to children and pets all year round. A recent study from Consumer Reports shows that the warm summer months aren’t the only time parents should be on high alert.

How many children die in hot cars every year?

Children and pets aren't safe unattended in a car no matter what season. Cars get dangerously hot in under an hour.
A dad buckles his kids into the back seat of a car. | Anthony Devlin – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

According to Consumer Reports, heatstroke can be a four-season threat in some parts of the U.S. Moreover, about 38 children die each year from vehicular heatstroke. That makes it the leading cause of death in children 14 or younger, excluding crashes. In the last year, almost 38 percent of the 24 hot car deaths were kids who got into the vehicle independently.

With more parents working from home, many become less mindful of where their vehicle is parked. Whether in the garage or the driveway, make sure it’s locked, and the keys are out of reach. Additionally, if you don’t have children, take the same precautions. There have been reports of neighbors’ children climbing into another family’s too hot car. Keep your doors locked so no child can get inside, whether they’re yours or not. In the case of a missing child, be sure to check inside your cars, including the trunks, immediately. Additionally, if you or a neighbor has a swimming pool, check there.

It’s never safe to leave a child in a vehicle unattended

Pets aren't safe left inside vehicles, no matter the outside temperature. Hot car fatalities are always in season.
Dog inside a car | Honda

CR says it’s never safe to leave an unattended child inside a vehicle, even with cracked windows. Furthermore, a car with cracked windows in the shade will still quickly reach dangerously high temperatures. Even if the temperature outside isn’t scorching hot, the inside of a vehicle will be. According to CR, the inside of a closed car will reach dangerous temperatures within one hour.

On April 25, 2020, in Tomball, Texas, a four-year-old boy was found dead inside a hot family vehicle. He snuck outside and into the car without anything noticing. The weather that day reported that the temperature was just 78 degrees, which doesn’t seem very hot. CR’s testing revealed that even when it’s just 61 degrees outside, a closed car reaches 105 degrees in one hour. Moreover, the inside of a vehicle can be fatal to children and pets even without scorching outside temperatures.

Hot car fatalities are a year-round threat

A brown dog in a car with the window rolled down.
Pet in a car | Getty Images

Using Consumer Reports’ test results, it’s safe to say hot summer days aren’t exclusively when hot cars are dangerous. Additionally, your car’s color mitigating heat is a myth, CR says.

“Children should never be left unattended in a car for even a short period of time.”

Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center

“Even when it’s not that hot outside, our test results show how quickly temperatures inside the car escalate, regardless of whether your car is light or dark,” she added.

Research shows that shade isn’t a viable way to cool your car’s cabin. Researchers at Arizona State University and the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine evaluated cabin air temperature and surface temperatures in identical vehicles placed in the shade and sun. According to the study, a two-year-old child’s core temperature would reach 104 degrees in less than two hours inside both cars.

Young children are more at risk of hot car fatalities because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In short, young children, especially babies, can’t efficiently regulate their body temperature, making them dehydrate more quickly than adults.

Automakers are implementing preventative technology

RELATED: Hot Tips That’ll Keep Your Car’s Interior Cool When Parked

General Motors was the first to implement a door-logic-based rear-seat reminder back in 2017. Other automakers have since done the same. These systems recognize when a rear door opens before or after the vehicle is started. Then, they provide a reminder alert at the end of a trip. Recently, a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission, which would allow radar technology inside a vehicle’s cabin, was introduced. CR says the waiver could enable vehicles “to take these systems to the next level of occupant detection.”

Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis vehicles offer ultrasonic sensors to detect motion inside a car after the driver exits and the doors are locked. Additionally, the cars come with a door-logic reminder alert. Automakers around the world are working on technology to improve safety.

Hot car fatalities are always a threat to children and pets

In conclusion, there’s no time of the year when it’s safe to leave someone inside your car. Additionally, all vehicles should remain locked at all times when they’re not in use. Ensure all vehicles are locked, even if parked inside a garage. As a result, you could prevent your child, or another family’s, from climbing inside and getting stuck. Thankfully, automakers are beginning to implement life-saving technology. In the meantime, take caution and never leave a child or pet inside a vehicle unattended.

RELATED: It’s Dangerous for Dogs and Cats to Ride in a Car in Cold Winter Weather