Trapped in The Backseat of a Car: Nobody Can Imagine Losing a Child Like That

Every year, families go through the horrible loss of a loved baby or toddler when their loved ones are accidentally left strapped to a safety seat or become trapped in a vehicle that can rapidly heat up.

The Department of Meteorology and Climate Sciences at San Jose State University tracked the heatstroke deaths of 661 children in vehicles, and provides data showing that in 54% of the cases, the victim was forgotten in the car, which would be equivalent to around 356 deaths. Other cases of the survey describe that 29% were playing unattended in the vehicle, 17% were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult and 1% were reported as unknown cases.

Most people believe this type of incidents only occur during summer months, but records kept by the Department of Earth & Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University shows that deaths have occurred in every month except January.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports the occurrence of heat strokes in vehicles is the leading cause of all non-crash related deaths, that involve children 14 years or younger, at 61 percent.

"Far too many wonderful parents and caregivers believe that this would never happen to them or their family."

says Janette Fennell, both president and founder of She explains nobody is immune to this tragedy, and it could occur in any situation.

Whether leaving a child unattended in a car is a crime or not largely depends on one’s location. Twenty states have laws addressing the issue of leaving children unattended, but only Louisiana, Maryland, and Nebraska actually ban the practice. Though they differ on the definition of a child and a suitable guardian to stay in the car. Here is a simplified table with each state and the corresponding laws.

States such as Hawaii, Texas, and Utah allow parents and caregivers to leave children unattended in a car for up to five minutes. Illinois and Florida allow up to 15 minutes. Laws in several other states, including California, specify that children cannot be left in a vehicle in dangerous conditions, such as hot weather.

Yet, states without these laws can still prosecute parents under child endangerment statuses. It's not clear how many parents are arrested for leaving their kids unsupervised in cars, but there are plenty of cases where caregivers have been arrested and charged with child desertion or endangerment.

Even though many states try to limit the time children stay unattended in automobiles, the biggest cause of deaths in parked cars is the fact that children are simply forgotten by their responsible parent or guardian, which stand above all other causes at 80 percent. The following image can provide easy to see information to protect your family.

Guidelines for Leaving Kids Alone

Helpful tips and reminders to keep in mind:

  • A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s. A child dies with a 107 degree body temperature.
  • Cracking a window open and parking in the shade aren't sufficient safeguards.
  • It takes only 10 minutes for a car's temperature to reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly peaks in 10 minutes.

    How to Avoid a Hot Car Tragedy:

  • Make a habit of always put your cell phone, purse, or briefcase, and anything else you'll need that day, on the floor of the backseat. When you retrieve it at the end of the ride, you'll notice your child.
  • Seat your younger child behind the front passenger seat, where he's most likely to catch your eye.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it's empty. When you put your child in the seat, move the animal to the front passenger seat, to remind you that your baby is on board.
  • Ask your child's babysitter or daycare provider to always phone you promptly if your child isn't dropped off as scheduled.
  • Never assume someone else has taken a young kid out of her seat. Such miscommunication has led to more than a few hot-car deaths.

    Technologies to Help Parents

    Beyond the tips provided above parents can use new technologies to help prevent this problem. Smart trackers and other devices that contain a heat sensor can be attached to the clothing of a baby. If the ambient temperature rises above a certain value, the smart device sends a notification to parents. Those devices also contain a distance alert function. If the parent and child are separated by more than 20 to 30 feet, the parent received a notification on his/her smartphone. The AmbyGear smartwatch contains the features described above and can change from a smartwatch form to a clip form which is more suitable for kids younger than 5.

    AmbyGear Baby Clip - Artist Concept