Look Before You Lock

June 9, 2018

At least nine children across the U.S. have already died this year after they were left in hot cars -- and summer hasn’t even started yet, according to a new report published by the National Safety Council Wednesday.

Officials are concerned that as temperatures continue to climb, so could the death toll.

“Our children are our most vulnerable passengers and we cannot leave them alone in vehicles –- not even for a minute,” said Amy Artuso, the group’s senior program manager of advocacy. “This report should serve as a wake-up call to look before we lock.”

Children’s bodies heat up much faster than adults’ do, and on average, 37 children die from being left in hot cars each year, according to the National Safety Council.

Children’s internal organs begin to shut down once their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees -- and it takes very little time for a car to get too hot for children, according to the report.

On an 86-degree day, for example, it would take only about 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach a dangerous 105 degrees, researchers said.

Only 21 states and Guam have laws in place to protect children being left unattended in cars, and of those, eight allow felony charges for those who purposely leave a child.

Of the 408 deaths analyzed by the National Safety Council since 2007, 68 deaths resulted in no charges filed, the report said.

Seventy-one cases led to jail time and in 52 cases, the adult received a plea deal or probation, the report found.

The legal outcome wasn’t known in nearly 30% of the cases the National Safety Council reviewed, according to the report. That underscores the need for better data collection nationwide and more consistent legislation around the issue, the council said.

Update hourly