Security and Safety

Preventing Hot-Car Deaths

By Joshua Baethge 7.1.18

Last year, 42 children in the U.S. died in hot cars, according to statistics compiled by NoHeatStroke.org. Of the 744 hot-car deaths in the last 20 years, 114 occurred in Texas — the most in any state.

“Kids really shouldn’t be left alone in the car at all,” says John Hanna, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent based in San Antonio. “It’s much better if you just take them with you, for a number of reasons.”

Know the Risks

Vehicular heatstroke does not just occur in extreme conditions. 

“Children have died in cars with the temperature as low as 63 degrees,” says Jan Null, a consulting meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services and lecturer at the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science, San Jose State University. “Basically, the car becomes a greenhouse. At 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees.”

That means leaving your child in a car can be perilous, and not just during the many 100-degree days we’re likely to face this summer.

  • Children have died in vehicles when outside temperatures were only in the 60s.
  • Studies show that cars can warm to as much as 125 degrees in a matter of minutes, regardless of if the windows are cracked.
  • Infrared thermometers have documented surface temperatures of up to 200 degrees on interior objects under direct sunlight.
  • Children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults’ do.

Know the Laws

Twenty-one states now have laws that address leaving children in cars. In Texas, it is illegal to leave a child unattended for longer than five minutesif the child is younger than 7 and left unattended without someone 14 years of age or older (a felony earning up to two years in jail with fines up to $10,000 if the child is injured). Call 911 if you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle.

Know the Statistics

A vast majority — 87 percent — of children who have died in hot vehicles were left there accidentally or unknowingly.

One Texas father was driving to work last year with his infant in the car, forgot to drop off the baby at the nanny’s, and went to work like normal. This may seem like an unconscionable oversight. Unfortunately, it’s more common than you might think.

“You hear about this all the time and it’s just a tragedy,” Hanna says. “Thank God we haven’t had any issues like that with our clients. We want them all to stay safe.”

Know Your Brain

Sometimes when we are performing familiar tasks — driving to work, running errands — our brains go into autopilot mode. This causes us to forget non-habitual responsibilities.

It’s crucial to be extremely intentional about remembering to take your child out of the car with you, wherever you go. Even if you’re popping into the grocery store and you think it will take a minute, it is never worth the risk.

Know Your Car Is Empty

Experts recommend getting into the habit of checking your whole car before getting out.

  • Placing your cell phone or briefcase in the back seat can help focus your attention there before you exit your vehicle.
  • There are also phone apps available that send alerts to remember the kids when you reach certain destinations.

Know Where Your Keys Are

More than a quarter of heat-related vehicular deaths are caused by children getting into cars by themselves.

  • Keep car keys out of reach of children at all times.
  • If you can’t find your children, make your car (including the trunk) one of the first places you look.

If you have any questions about the safety of your car, or the safety of your family, call your local Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent. They can help you find the right coverage to keep you protected.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2018 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance