Children left alone in vehicles during hot weather are at risk of a serious injury or death from hyperthermia.

NHTSA Steps Up Efforts to Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars

With record high temperatures nationwide and reports of 21 hyperthermia-related child deaths already this summer, NHTSA recently convened a roundtable with key stakeholders to help step up efforts to prevent these deaths.

With record high temperatures nationwide and reports of 21 hyperthermia-related child deaths already this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) convened a first-of-its-kind roundtable with key stakeholders recently to help step up efforts to prevent these needless deaths. Children left alone in vehicles during hot weather are at risk of a serious injury or death from hyperthermia. According to NHTSA research, hyperthermia is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of 14.

“These 21 deaths were tragic and preventable—not one of those children should have lost their lives in this horrible way,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We need to do everything we can to remind people to be vigilant and never leave a child alone in or around a motor vehicle.”

NHTSA experts were joined by representatives from the automobile industry, car seat manufacturers, victims, researchers, consumer groups, and health and safety advocates to discuss strategies to reduce child fatalities and injuries in hot vehicles.

Reports by the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show 49 children under the age of 14 died in 2010 due to hyperthermia, with 21 deaths so far in 2011. Several states have witnessed especially high incidences of fatalities for children aged 3 and under—including Texas, Florida, California, Nevada, and North Carolina.

“We know hyperthermia is a serious threat that needs to be better addressed immediately,” said David Strickland, NHTSA administrator. “A coordinated, targeted approach to increase public awareness of this very serious safety danger should help prevent unnecessary tragedies and near-misses moving forward. We need to come together and give the best information to parents, caregivers, and our communities to protect children in vehicles.”

In the coming weeks and months, Strickland and his staff will host listening sessions and other activities in some of the states hardest hit by hyperthermia deaths. They will engage concerned parents, advocacy groups, automotive experts, and health and law enforcement professionals, to discuss the best ways to raise awareness and to propose strategies for preventing these tragic events.

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