2017 Has Record Number of Hot Car Child Deaths

In June, The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC blog wrote about a newborn child who was abandoned in an unknown car during an extremely hot summer day. While this Grand Rapids, Michigan baby was thankfully uninjured, issues relating to children being left alone in cars are only becoming more urgent as 2017 has seen more hot car deaths than any year before.

Hot Car Death Lawyer

As reported by CNN, the end of July 2017 marks the highest number of hot car deaths ever recorded from the beginning of the year to the end of July. As of July 31st, 29 children died of heatstroke and other heat related problems after being left alone, trapped inside a sweltering hot car. The previous record was held in 2010 after 28 children died from heatstroke before August 1st. Ultimately, 48 children died in hot car incidents in 2010.

In 2001, Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist for the past 40 years with the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University, began recording hot car deaths. Null conducted an experiment when he first began researching temperature levels of parked cars that are left to absorb heat on warm days. He placed a thermometer outside of the car that measured the natural outside temperature, and then placed one inside a car that had air conditioning on, but had just been parked and locked. The results were surprising.

In the first ten minutes, Null found that the temperature can rise 19°F (Fahrenheit) in a sitting parked car. When conducting the experiment at 70°F outside, he stated that the temperature inside the car rose to 89°F after ten minutes. Similarly, when he conducted the experiment starting with 90°F temperature, the car’s temperature rose to 109°F in just ten minutes. When commenting on his experiment, Null stated, "you get to these very high temperatures very rapidly. How hot it got was one surprise, but how fast it got to a deadly temperature was even more unexpected.” Null further explains that among medical professionals, 104°F is generally accepted as heat stroke range, and 107°F can prove fatal to the human body. According to Null, the temperature inside a parked car on an 80°F day can rise to 109°F just after 20 minutes! 

Hot Car Child Death

So, why is this increase in car temperature on a hot day important for child safety? Well, CNN also noted that “according to the Mayo Clinic, kids are far more susceptible to falling victim to summer heat because their bodies are not fully developed, thus rendering them less able to cope with extremely hot temperatures. Children's body temperatures rise five times faster than that of an adult’s. The danger of a rising temperature is that it can cause heatstroke. Heatstroke can result in permanent brain, heart or kidney damage, and even death. The temperature of the body rises because when a person is dehydrated, they lose their ability to sweat. That is, they lose their ability to rid their body of heat and cool themselves down, which results in the rapid increase of one’s body temperature.”

According to Jan Null, an average of 37 children die each year due to hot car related incidents. Since 1998, he states that 729 children have died of heatstroke after being trapped inside of cars. 

In response to these issues, legislation has just recently been passed to help prevent wrongful deaths of children who are left alone in hot cars. On July 31, 2017 U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act 2017). According to Kids and Cars.org, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires in this legislation, that in the next two years, all new vehicles must be equipped with visual and audio technology that notifies drivers to check their backseat for children before they exit their car. The Act also requires research into the implementation of these reminder systems into older cars as well. 

General Motors has already implemented technology in their cars to to remind parents to check their back seats for children. The Rear Seat Reminder is a feature that detects rear door usage rather than any objects on the seat. The feature is designed to just remind drivers to check their back seats, regardless of what might be there. 

Michigan Injury Lawyer

Jan Null believes the HOT CARS Act and new safety features implemented in cars will help deter heat illness-related deaths of children, however, he warns that they will not protect all children. Null explains that the Act fails to address two other causes of hot car deaths: children gaining access to vehicles by themselves and then being unable to exit the car, and parents just making the very poor choice of leaving their children alone in a car for a period of time. He believes making sure cars are always locked, teaching children that cars are not an area for play, and making sure car keys are always out of reach of children, will help deter hot car incidents as well. 

Children should never be left alone in cars, regardless of the circumstance and period of time in which they will be alone. Stories of children dying from being left alone in hot cars are both tragic and sickening. That fact that Americans broke the record for most recorded hot car deaths to children in the first seven months of this year, should be cause for grave concern. However, it is reassuring to know that more is being done to address this issue such as the introduction of the HOT CAR Act of 2017 and designing of car safety features to remind drivers to check their back seat for children before exiting their vehicle. The bottom line is that children are too young to cope with intense weather conditions, and must always be supervised and should never be left alone in a hot car.


Newborn Baby Abandoned In Unknown Car

Child Hot Car Lawyer Michigan

A visitor to Mercy Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI discovered a newborn baby abandoned in a car in the hospital parking lot, on the morning of June 12, 2017 and alerted police. The baby was not found in its parents' car but in an unknown man's vehicle. Officials are currently working to get to the bottom of the case. It has been reported that the baby’s 24-year-old mother is currently cooperating with investigators. However, it is still unclear whether or not the baby’s mother knows the man in whose car the baby was found.

Luckily, the baby, who appears to have been born within the last week, is in good health. However, the baby's abandonment is even more alarming because of the recent hot Summer weather in Michigan. Temperatures outside on Monday, June 12th reached the mid-90s, turning the inside of vehicles into ovens. It is of course, never safe to leave children or pets inside hot cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that from 1998-2016, 700 children died from heatstroke in vehicles. 54% of these deaths were due to the child being forgotten in a car by a caregiver. While a few minutes in a hot car might sound harmless, in just ten minutes, a car can heat up to 20 degrees higher than the outside temperature, which can be enough to kill children who are left in vehicles. Additionally, children are often too young to alert others for help if they are trapped in an abandoned car.

Source:  Kars4Kids.org

It is therefore important to “check for baby” before leaving the car, to ensure child hot car safety. Making it a habit to check the backseat before leaving the car can prevent children from being left behind on hot days. The non-profit organization Kars4Kids wants to help bring awareness to this important subject. They have developed an app to help forgetful parents remember that there is someone alive and breathing in the back of their vehicle, among the mountains of groceries.

They have created an app, called Kars4Kids Safety, which is designed to set off an alarm every time a phone that has the app leaves a vehicle. It does this by connecting to a car's Bluetooth technology to track when a user goes in and out of a vehicle. A customizable ringtone and option to add your child's photo make remembering to double check one's car as easy as posting on Facebook about your baby's first trip to the pool. Considering that even with windows rolled two inches down, a car can overheat at mercury-defying rates, Kars4Kids is helping fight for child car safety.  

Not only is it important to make sure children aren't left in cars, but it is equally important to not allow them to break into a vehicle when adult attention is turned away. Cars may look like giant playgrounds to small children, but in reality they are powerful, dangerous machines that should only be used for driving and not for hide and seek. By locking the car when it is not in use and by keeping keys out of reach of children, children can be stopped from being able to get into a vehicle and potentially trapping themselves inside.  

Michigan Child Car Safety Lawyer

While most parents and caretakers unintentionally leave children and pets in cars because they were distracted and forgot about the quiet dog or sleeping baby in the back, others think it's ok to leave a child in a car because they'll be right back in just one minute. While these actions are dangerous to the child, they are not done with ill intent. The Grand Rapids baby on the other hand was presumably, intentionally, abandoned in a hot car in a hospital parking lot. It's a shame that this is how the mother decided to leave her child when, according to CBS Detroit, the State of Michigan allows people to surrender their newborn babies to hospitals and other emergency care providers, without having to worry about criminal charges. In fact, the mother could have left the baby safely with a health care professional in the hospital itself, where she presumably gave birth, and not outside in a hot car. No matter what, there is no excuse for leaving a child to die alone in a hot vehicle. 

Driving with children always requires extra precautions, particularly in the Summer when scorching hot temperatures make vehicles burn to the touch. With the rescue and shelter resources available around the State of Michigan, there is no reason a child should be left behind. On June 12, a stranger saved a newborn baby's life. Next time, someone might not be there until it is too late.


Children should never be left in car on sweltering hot Summer days, for their own safety. If you so someone you know is in need of legal assistance relating to an incident of child car safety, contact The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.Firm for a free consultation.