Recently there has been an increase in incidents with children being left in sweltering hot vehicles. These incidents occur most common when the child is being transported out of the normal routine. For example, the mother usually takes the child to daycare but on this particular day the father is taking the child or maybe the child is going to school at an unusual time.
According to the national nonprofit organization KidsAndCars.org, in 2013 there were at least 45 deaths of children left in vehicles; thirty-nine which has been confirmed as heatstroke and five which, based upon the known circumstances, are most likely heatstroke. Since 1998 there have been at least 623 documented cases of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles. In Louisiana alone there have been 20 reported child deaths from 1998 – 2012 resulting from heat stroke after being left in a vehicle. This data and study shows that these incidents can occur on days with relatively mild (i.e., ~ 70 degrees F) temperatures and that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly. For instance, when it is 80 degrees outside, the inside of a vehicle can reach 123 degrees in only 60 minutes.
- Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2013: 44
- Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 1998-present: 623
- Average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998: 38
- The children that have died from vehicular heatstroke in the U.S. from 1993 – 2013 have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years.
There are approximately 20 states, including Louisiana which have laws specifically addressing leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. According to LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 295.3 (2013), it is unlawful to leave a child under the age of 6 unattended in a vehicle. Additionally, several states, including LA have Good Samaritan laws which may protect citizens who see a child in a car and render assistance. In Louisiana, Revised Statute 9:2793 provides in part that no individual who renders care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for civil damages, when rendered without compensation.
As mentioned above, it does not need to be extremely hot outdoors for a child to suffer a heatstroke when left inside a vehicle. Therefore, it is recommended that you never leave a child unattended in a vehicle regardless of the temperature outside our the length of time you will be away from the vehicle.