Injury Prevention Policy
Children Left Unattended in Vehicles
How big is the problem?
In 1999 alone, at least 27 children died of hyperthermia (heat stroke) from being locked in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. All of these children were under the age of five and all of these deaths occurred during summer months (June-August) (1). When the outside temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, even with the windows cracked, the air temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit in just 20 minutes and approximately 140 degrees in 40 minutes (2). In these conditions, young children can die or suffer permanent disability in a matter of minutes.
Policy and Details
States and communities shall enact and enforce laws and/or ordinances to prohibit children from being left unattended in motor vehicles.
Eleven states currently have laws that prohibit children from being left unattended in vehicles, including: Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. In addition, New York has proposed similar legislation. You may view the KIDS 'N CARS website for links to each state's new or proposed law.
As of yet, there have been no studies of the effectiveness of this type of legislation. However, knowledge of the medical vulnerability of young children left unattended in cars provides a strong rationale for protecting them from this hazard. Current law provides this level of protection to animals. At least 15 states and local jurisdictions have passed legislation that makes it illegal for pets to be confined in automobiles (3). Children should have that same protection.
ContactsKIDS 'N CARS
Janette Fennell, Cofounder
537 Jones Street #2514
San Francisco, CA 94102
KIDS 'N CARS
Michele Struttmann, Cofounder
918 Glenn Avenue
Washington, MO 63090
1. KIDS 'N CARS. Database search on children who have died due to hyperthermia from being left unattended in an automobile. Summary available online: http://www.kidsncars.org May 8, 2000.
Last modified: 4-August-2000.