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Heatstroke deaths declined precipitously in 2020

TFI Continues to Spread Awareness About the Dangers of Heatstroke

(June 9, 2021 / Topeka, KS) – Outside of crashes, heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children in the United States. As temperatures heat up, TFI is teaming up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise awareness and help reduce the number of heatstroke deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of vehicular heatstroke and leaving children in hot cars.

Nearly 900 children have died of heatstroke since 1998 because they were left or became trapped in a hot car. Children are more vulnerable to heatstroke and all hot car deaths are preventable. Parents, caregivers and bystanders all play a role in helping to make sure another death doesn’t happen.

The data shows these campaigns are having a real effect. There were an all-time high of 54 preventable deaths of children in vehicles in 2018 and 53 such deaths in 2019. However, that number plummeted by more than half to just 25 in 2020.

“As outside temperatures rise, the risk of children dying from vehicular heatstroke increases,” TFI Senior Vice President Rachelle Roosevelt said. “One child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days in the United States from being left in a car or crawling into an unlocked vehicle. What is most tragic is that every single one of these deaths could have been prevented.”

TFI urges all parents and caregivers to do follow these guidelines:

  • NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended – even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on.
  • Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away. Train yourself to Park, Look, Lock, or always ask yourself, “Where’s Baby?
  • Ask your childcare provider to call if your child doesn’t show up for care as expected.
  • Place a personal item like a purse or a briefcase in the back seat, as another reminder to look before you lock. Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.
  • Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Always lock your car doors and trunk, year-round, so children can’t get into unattended vehicles

If you are a bystander and see a child in a hot vehicle:

  • Make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
  • If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system.
  • If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
  • If the child is not responsive or appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child – even if that means breaking a window. Many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.

Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include red, hot, and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion; or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, quickly spray the child with cool water or with a garden hose. NEVER put a child in an ice bath. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than adult’s, and heatstroke can occur in outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees. When a child is left in a hot vehicle, that child’s temperature can rise quickly – and they could die within minutes. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

“More than half (54%) of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 26% are from a child getting into a hot car unsupervised,” Roosevelt said. “We want to get the word out to parents and caregivers: please Look Before You Lock.”

For more information on the dangers of heatstroke in children and how you can help prevent these unnecessary and untimely deaths, please visit the following websites:


TFI is a leading child welfare agency providing experience, compassion, quality services and care. We provide various types of services in the community and have over 50 years of experience in providing child welfare services including foster care services, group home care, case management, independent living, psychiatric residential treatment center, behavioral health, adoption services, visitation services, and aftercare services.