The recent death of a toddler in a hot car has sparked a flurry of media attention on an issue that is many parents' worst nightmare. Since then, a video from a concerned dad has gone viral, and another video of a group of people breaking children out of a hot car in Katy, Texas, made national news. As harrowing as these highly publicized incidents are, the number of US children who die from being left alone in a hot car is very, very low.
This map of all child vehicular heatstroke deaths, from the San Francisco State University, shows that the number of fatalities didn't hit the triple digits in any state over a 16-year period:
These types of deaths also don't seem to be getting any more common across the country:
Children are much more likely to die from other causes:
- The biggest threat to children in a car is still accidents. More than 650 children 12 and younger died in a car accident in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty-three children (0 to 18 years old) died in a hot car that year.
- About 2,694 children and teens died from guns in the US in 2010, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Forty-nine children died in a hot car that year.
- Pools, rivers, lakes, and beaches are also more dangerous to children. A CDC study found that 765 children 14 and younger drowned to death in the US between 2005 and 2009, when 188 children died in a hot car.
This does not mean you should leave your child in a hot vehicle, nor does it downplay any of the terrible cases in which children die of heatstroke in cars. But the numbers do give some reason for optimism: America already seems to be doing a good job avoiding these unnecessary deaths.