National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat!

One of the biggest weather related risks during the summer months is the possibility of a child dying in a vehicle from heat stroke. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, and 50 degrees in an hour. In South Texas, average actual high temperatures from late April through early October reach well into the 90s. Average high temperatures around 100 degrees are common across areas near the Rio Grande River during the months of June, July and August. When this heat enters a closed vehicle, actual temperatures inside the vehicle can reach 120°F in minutes and approach 150°F in as little as an hour! This can cause hyperthermia (heat stroke) in only minutes, particularly in children, whose body temperatures warm at a rate three to five times faster than an adult.

In the last 12 years, 475 children have died nationwide from heat stroke suffered while in a vehicle. Half of these were children that were forgotten by a parent or other caregiver, and nearly 20 percent died when parents knowingly left their child in a vehicle. The rest died playing in an unattended vehicle. Of these 475 fatalities, 67 have occurred in Texas. Since 2003, three children have died from vehicle hyperthermia in South Texas. Through August of this year, 29 children have died from hyperthermia, nationally.

All of these tragic deaths are preventable. To help bring awareness to this issue, the National Weather Service is using the slogan "Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat" to remind people to remember to check for small children in a car seat, and to never leave children unattended in a vehicle, even for a few moments. Remember that pets should also never be left in a vehicle during the summer months.

The following are basic safety recommendations:

  • Never Leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Not even for a minute!
  • If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately!
  • If a child is missing, always check the car first!
  • Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don't overlook sleeping babies.
  • Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
  • If a child is missing, check the car first, including the trunk.
  • Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the carseat. When the child is put in the seat, place the animal in the front with the driver.
  • Or, place your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
  • Make "look before you leave" a routine whenever you get out of the car.
  • Ensure your child care provider will call you if your child does not show up for school.

If you have any questions about "Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat", please contact John Metz, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi.

Much of the information on this page is based on research by Mr. Jan Null, Certified Consulting Meteorologist, Adjunct Professor of Meteorology at San Francisco State University, CA, and a 34 year veteran with the National Weather Service. You can find his research and information at Golden Gate Weather Services.

More information on the dangers of heat can also be found at the National Weather Service Heat Safety webpage.