interior of a motor vehicle

Summer in Texas is synonymous with sizzling temperatures. While the heat brings opportunities for outdoor fun, it also presents a significant danger, especially for children left unattended in vehicles.

The Peril of Heatstroke in Cars

Even on seemingly mild days, a car’s interior temperature can rapidly rise to dangerous levels. Unlike adults, a child’s body temperature increases three to five times faster. They are less efficient at sweating, which is the body’s natural cooling mechanism. Enclosed in a hot car, a child’s body temperature can escalate quickly, leading to heatstroke, a condition that can be fatal.

Cracking a window does little to prevent a car from becoming an oven. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that within minutes, a car’s interior temperature can reach 125°F on a hot day, even with the windows partially open. At this temperature, a child can suffer heatstroke in as little as ten minutes.

Texas Leads in Hot Car Deaths

Texas has a disturbingly high number of hot car deaths.

According to data from, a program supported by the National Safety Council, since 1998, Texas has had the most hot car fatalities in the US, with a staggering 146 deaths.

This translates to an average of over 5 deaths per year. While the reasons behind these deaths are complex, a lack of awareness about the dangers of heatstroke and leaving children unattended in cars likely plays a significant role.

Why Children Are Most at Risk

Children under the age of two are especially vulnerable to heatstroke in cars. Their bodies are still developing, and their internal temperature regulation systems are not fully mature. This makes it harder for them to cool down effectively in a hot environment. Additionally, unlike adults, children may not be able to communicate their discomfort or escape from a locked car.

Tragically, even a short amount of time in a hot car can be deadly for a young child. Their body temperature can rise rapidly, and when it reaches 107 degrees Fahrenheit, vital organs begin to shut down, and death can occur.

The Impact of Outside Temperature

The data from reveals a clear correlation between outside temperature and hot car fatalities in Texas. Over 81% of these deaths happen when the outside temperature surpasses 90°F.

Texas Law Regarding Leaving a Child in a Car

Texas law recognizes the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. According to Texas Penal Code Chapter 22.10, knowingly leaving a child under seven years old unattended in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes is a Class C misdemeanor. A conviction for this offense can result in a fine of up to $500 and a misdemeanor on your criminal record.

Keeping Your Children Safe During Summer

Here are some crucial steps you can take to ensure your child’s safety during the hot summer months:

  • Teach Your Children and Be A Great Example: Educate your children from a young age about the dangers of playing in unattended cars. Explain that cars can get very hot, and staying inside them can be dangerous.
  • Never Leave Your Child Unattended: This may seem like common sense, but sometimes even the most attentive parent or caregiver can get forgetful. Develop a routine to ensure your child always exits the vehicle with you.
  • Ensure Caregiver Supervision: If you rely on a babysitter or daycare provider, make sure they are aware of the dangers of heatstroke and understand the importance of never leaving a child unattended in a car.
  • Habitual Back Seat Check: Make it a habit to double-check the back seat before exiting your car, especially after routine stops like daycare drop-off or grocery shopping. This quick check can prevent a potentially tragic situation.
  • Act on Instinct: If you see an unattended child in a hot car, take immediate action. Call 911 and try to locate the parent or guardian. If the child appears in distress, you may need to break a window to gain access. In such a situation, prioritize the child’s safety and remember that the law protects you from civil liability for taking reasonable steps to help a child in danger.

Looking Beyond the Statistics

The statistics on hot car deaths in Texas are alarming, but each number represents a heartbreaking loss of a young life. These deaths are preventable tragedies. By spreading awareness about the dangers of heatstroke and educating parents and caregivers on the best prevention strategies, you can prevent these tragedies from happening.

Spreading Awareness: A Community Effort

While the primary responsibility for child safety lies with parents and caregivers, the community also plays a crucial role in preventing hot car deaths. Here are some ways communities can work together:

  • Public Education Campaigns: Schools, daycare centers, and local authorities can collaborate on public education campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of heatstroke in cars. These campaigns can utilize various channels like social media, billboards, and community events to spread the message.
  • Training for Caregivers: Organizations that provide childcare services can implement mandatory training programs for babysitters, daycare workers, and other caregivers. These training sessions should educate caregivers on the risks of heatstroke and provide them with practical strategies to keep children safe in hot weather.
  • Law Enforcement and Emergency Services: Law enforcement personnel and first responders can be equipped with training and resources to handle situations involving children left unattended in hot cars. This may include protocols for gaining access to vehicles and providing emergency medical care to heatstroke victims.

Technological Advancements

Technology can also play a part in preventing hot car deaths. Here are some innovative solutions gaining traction:

  • Rear Seat Reminder Systems: Some car manufacturers are now incorporating rear seat reminder systems into their vehicles. These systems can alert drivers to check the back seat before exiting the car, especially helpful for forgetful moments.
  • Smart Phone Apps: Several smartphone applications can be programmed to monitor a car’s temperature and send alerts if it reaches dangerous levels, especially if a child is left behind. While not a foolproof solution, these apps can serve as an additional layer of safety.

Protecting The Children Is A Shared Responsibility

Protecting children from heatstroke in cars is a shared responsibility. By educating ourselves, our communities, and embracing new technologies, we can prevent these needless tragedies. Remember, even on seemingly mild days, a car’s interior can become scorching hot in a short amount of time. Always prioritize your child’s safety. Never leave them unattended in a vehicle, and be mindful of the dangers of heatstroke, especially for young children.

Taking Action

Here are some resources you can utilize to learn more and take action:

By working together, we can ensure that every child stays safe and enjoys the Texas summer without risk.