One Decision: Tragic Results – Please Look Before You Lock (Video)

“It could never happen to me.” “I would never leave my child alone in the car – not for a minute.” “No GOOD parent would ever forget their child!”

But it happens every day. According to KidsandCars on average 38 children die in hot cars each year, about one every 10 days from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. This year alone there have been 23 child vehicular heat-stroke deaths. And this is not counting the life-altering injuries experienced by the children who survive.

It happens…

Napping in the back seatChildren climb into unlocked cars to play. A child is sleeping in the back-seat and a parent “cracks open the window” and runs into the store for “just one thing” (…illegal in some states but in a NHTSA survey, 25% of parents admitted they had done this at least once). A spouse / partner / caregiver carefully buckles the baby into the car seat to drop them off at daycare. Maybe it wasn’t their day to drive…or maybe something distracts them for just one second. It’s just a little departure from the usual morning routine – only this time they forget the baby sleeping in the back seat (…more likely now since the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their guidelines to recommend that children remain rear-facing in car seats until they reach the age of two. A parent looking in the rear-view mirror no longer sees their child’s face – just the back of the car seat – whether their child is in it, or not).

It happens…

How hot vehicles get…and it doesn’t have to be 100 degrees outside for the consequences to be devastating. According to NHTSA’s report on “Unattended Children and Cars, even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the temperature to rise well above 110 degrees Fahrenheit inside your car. The inside temperature can rise almost 20 degrees F within the first 10 minutes”. Within an hour the temperature jumps around 50 degrees F. If the outside temperature is in the low 80’s F, the temperature inside the vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes. Slightly rolling the window down has almost no impact on these temperature increases.

Take a look at this simulation produced by the SafeKids organization of how fast a car can heat up when exposed to direct sunlight

Children’s bodies – in particular infants and children under 4 years of age – are at greatest risk for heat-related illness. They absorb more heat and are less able to lower their body heat by sweating. Because a child’s thermoregulatory system is not fully developed, their bodies warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. A core body temperature of 107 degrees F is considered lethal because cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.

It happens…

ray rays pledge logo

To the most loving, caring parents…the most responsible caregivers. These are not “those horrible people who should never have been allowed near children”. Take a minute to read Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero’s story about the day her husband Brett took one wrong turn and drove to the office instead of dropping their beloved daughter Sophia (Ray Ray to those who loved her) off at daycare. It wasn’t until they met for lunch later in the day that they realized something was wrong. By that time Ray Ray had been in his truck for 3 hours. An hour and 19 minutes later she was gone.

But this isn’t just Ray Ray’s story. More than 1 in 5 kids who die of heatstroke in a car were supposed to be dropped off at daycare that morning – and no one questioned their whereabouts until it was too late. Now Kristie has made “Ray Ray’s Pledge” her lives’ work – to establish a “daycare safety net” and make sure this doesn’t happen to another child. Other parents have made similar pledges. To share the story of their children’s tragedies here, in interviews, in every public forum possible – in the hopes of saving just one family the pain they have endured. There are ways to keep your child safe during the hot summer months.


  • Child Vehicle Heatstroke Prevention Tips from NHTSA:
    • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
    • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
    • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
    • If you are dropping your child off at childcare, and normally it’s your spouse or partner who drops them off, have them call you to make sure the drop went according to plan. Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up.
    • wheresbaby4Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
      • Keep a large object such as a stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s empty. Move the stuffed animal to the front seat when you place the child in the seat as a visual reminder.
      • Place your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle
    • If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle: call the police. If the
      y are in distress get them out as quickly as possible and cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately
  • Take Ray Ray’s Pledge
    • You Pledge: to call your child’s teacher if he or she will be late or absent
    • Teacher Pledges: to call YOU immediately if your child does not arrive at his or her usual time
  • Download the KidsandCars Safety Checklist and keep it handy
  • July 31st is National Heatstroke Prevention Day
    • Join the Office of Emergency Medical Services at NHTSA in a day of social media conversation and help them get the word out about the dangers of heatstroke when children are left in cars. @NHTSAgov will be tweeting and posting on Facebook every hour on the hour from 10am – 5pm using the hashtag #heatstroke. Please join them…
    • For more info and sample tweets click here

“If you think it can’t happen to you, then it could and it might… Tell yourself it COULD happen to me and then do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t.” …

And if you ever catch yourself saying…”I’ll only be gone for a moment”… please do two things:

  1. Consider the following question: If someone gave you a million dollars – would you leave it sitting there unattended in your car – even for a moment? Isn’t your baby’s life worth more?
  2. Consider watching this video…and then maybe even share it:
    Before you do, know that it is very graphic and may be upsetting…so please think twice before you watch it.

Please also know that this was a re-enactment – no one was harmed in the making of this film

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


11 Responses to “One Decision: Tragic Results – Please Look Before You Lock (Video)”

  1. Russ Rusakov says:

    Amazing article, bringing awareness that it can happen to anyone under the right circumstances. Since I retired I have taken up the cause to help protect babies who can’t protect themselves. My first project was to make a reliable and affordable safety seat alarm to market and did in 2011. I was disappointed that this technology wasn’t mentioned in the article even though Kristie uses it every day to help protect her twins. The suggestions in the article are good but let’s face it, If your going to have a memory lapse and forget a child then you will surely forget your phone or pocketbook. The safety seat alarm should be used as the last layer of protection when all else fails. It could just save your child’s life. We now have focused on another cause that takes the lives or causes long term and permanent damage to our children. We have brought to market the Safety Angel Fish wristband water safety alarm. Rebecca Wear Robinson highlighted it this week in Pediatric Safety under Best Water Safety Products: Because Kids Don’t Naturally Float
    – See more at: Hopefully the community will realize the importance of technology and embrace it.

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Hi Russ,
      Thanks very much for stopping by. You’re correct – while nothing can take the place of a parent’s watchful eyes, technology can add an extra layer of protection in keeping kids safe and I’m a big believer in that. My main goal with this article was to raise awareness that this happens – to any parent – to the best of parents – and unfortunately quite often to those who think “it could never happen to me”. But let me come back and mention – for those folks who want a little more information on Russ’ safety seat alarm, you can find it at…and at . Thanks again Russ!

  2. Melissa says:

    I live in Phoenix where the summer heat is just unbearable sometimes. I often don’t even take my kids out during the day and when I do, it’s only after I’ve started the car with the a/c running for awhile.

    This is a really important post. I’m glad you shared it. Btw, I’ve used that expression before too about not leaving a million dollars unattended so why would we leave our kids alone?

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      I love that you don’t bring your kids outside until after you’ve started the car and had the a/c running!! Nicely done mom!! 🙂

  3. Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

    Thanks for RT’ing this – the more people we can make aware, the better!

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