With warm weather, sadly, come tragic cases of children being left in hot cars and dying from heat stroke. On average, 37 children in the U.S. die of heat stroke each year after being left in a hot car, according to KidsAndCars.org. While it may be hard to imagine, many deaths have occurred when overstressed parents forgot that their children were in the backseat.

These hot-car tragedies often occur when parents or caregivers are stressed, when there is a change in driver’s routine, or when there is a sleeping baby in the back that a parent or caregiver forgets is in the car. Some knowingly leave their children “just for a minute” not realizing how quickly the temperature in a car can rise to dangerous levels. Even if it is only 70 degrees outside, a car can quickly heat to more than 120 degrees.

Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, says that researchers are working on devices, including weight sensors and heartbeat monitors, to detect the presence of a child in the backseat. General Motors has technology in some newer models that remind the driver to check the rear seat if it suspects a child or pet could be onboard, based on the rear doors being opened before departure. Some child-seat manufacturers are also working to incorporate child-detecting technologies into the car seat itself.

Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, has signed on to the Hot Cars Act of 2017 (Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats) to urge vehicle manufacturers to develop and implement integrated heatstroke prevention solutions.

“Parents need a simple, reliable, and effective way to avoid the unthinkable act of forgetting their child in the backseat when they get out of the car. Congress should pass the HOT CARS Act without delay to help parents avoid the devastation of losing a child to heatstroke,” said David Friedman, Director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis, Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “Until these alerts are in every car, every parent should remember: Look before you lock.”

Heat stroke death is a risk to children in hot cars

Tips to Prevent Hot-Car Tragedies

  • Simple rule: Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute. It’s dangerous, and it is against the law in many states.
  • Set up cell-phone reminders for yourself to be sure you’ve gotten the children safely to their destination.
  • Check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading. If you lock the door with your key, rather than with your remote, it would force that one last look in the car before leaving it.
  • Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children.
  • To serve as a reminder, keep a stuffed animal on the front passenger seat when carrying a child in the backseat.
  • Place something in the backseat that you would need, such as your purse, briefcase or cell phone.
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, especially if they seem hot, call 911 immediately to help get them out.