Vehicle Related Heat Deaths

June 17, 2013

Never leave children, disabled adults or pets in parked vehicles. During the summer months, this becomes a life threatening mistake. However, hyperthermia deaths aren't exclusively confined to summer months. These tragedies also happen during the spring and fall. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. This condition can occur even on a mild day.

Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.

How Fast Can the Sun Heat a Car? Click here to view a short video of how quickly a car can heat up in the sun. The sun's shortwave radiation heats objects that it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to over 200°F. These objects (e.g., dashboard, steering wheel, child seat) heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off longwave radiation which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.

Here are some additional vehicle safety tips concerning children:


  • Make sure your child's safety seat and safety belt buckles aren't too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.

  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.

  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.

  • Always lock car doors and trunks--even at home--and keep keys out of children's reach.

  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't leave sleeping infants in the car - ever.

Be safe this Summer! Find more tips here from the National Weather Service.