Skip to content


4 Key Ways to Prevent Danger to Infants & Kids in Hot Cars

by Vannessa Rhoades 11 May 2023
4 Key Ways to Prevent Danger to Infants & Kids in Hot Cars

If you’re a parent who thinks they’d never be so foolish as to forget their child in a hot car, then get ready to pump the brakes. Sadly, this tragedy can happen to anyone. Dozens of children die in hot cars each year, and the vast majority of them were left behind without their caregiver’s knowledge, according to

Dr. David Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, is a leading expert in cognitive neuroscience and has studied the role of memory in such tragedies. “Forgetting a child is not a negligence problem but a memory problem,” he says. He has concluded that the pressures caregivers deal with in daily life can make memory lapses more likely to occur. “The most common response is that only bad or negligent parents forget kids in cars,” Diamond says. “It’s a matter of circumstances. It can happen to everyone.” 

Summertime is especially dangerous for kids. Many families alter their daily schedule to accommodate vacations or other factors, and that disruption in the routine is often the common denominator in these tragedies, according to Dr. Diamond’s research. The problem isn’t only limited to summer, though. Even on days with mild weather, the temperature inside a car can reach hazardous levels within an hour. This, coupled with the fact that a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, poses a significant health risk to kids left inside the vehicle.

How the Memory Lapse Happens

Dr. Diamond explains that our memory functions on two levels: prospective and semantic. Prospective memory reminds us of the things on our to-do list. Semantic memory, on the other hand, is the “habit brain” and works in the background, letting us operate on “autopilot” at times without focusing too much on the details.

Together, these two types of memories help us alter our daily patterns and routines. For example, a change to your schedule may be “I need to pick up donuts on the way to work for the meeting,” or “My partner is busy so I’ll drop off the baby at nursery school.” If there’s a memory failure due to distraction or stress, the prospective memory may not remind us of this additional information or changes to the routine. At that point, the semantic memory kicks in and guides our behavior. This is helpful for things like not having to remember every turn on your route home from work, but the consequences can sometimes be disastrous …like forgetting there’s a baby in the car.

“We have to accept the fact that our brain multitasks. And as a part of that multitasking, the awareness of a child can be lost,” Diamond says. “We have to accept that the human memory is flawed. That includes when loving, attentive parents lose awareness of their children when they are in a car.”

Dr. Diamond discovered that often when a child died, there had been an alteration in the daily schedule. For instance, a caregiver who wouldn’t usually take the child to daycare might be the one in charge of that task for the day. Because the brain identifies a known routine for the day, this caregiver would proceed to the office as usual, even though their infant was in the vehicle. And in the absence of some sort of visual reminder, like seeing the baby’s diaper bag or hearing a cry, the caregiver’s “habit brain” would proceed with their daily routine as usual. Sleep deprivation and stress can also exacerbate the chances of memory failure.

The innovative technology behind the CYBEX Aton M and SafeLock Base with SensorSafe™ combination offers easy functionality in a safe and thoughtfully designed infant car seat. This car seat integrates important safety technology into the chest clip of the harness to alert when unsafe situations arise. The alerts are provided through a vehicle receiver and the caregiver’s smartphone to ensure safety for children in a range of unsafe situations.


How to Prevent a Hot-Car Tragedy

Experts warn that the most important step in preventing these catastrophic incidents is to acknowledge that this type of memory lapse can happen to anyone. To avoid tragedy, caregivers should implement child-specific techniques that target these memory failures. Here are a few strategies from the American Academy of Pediatrics for how to protect an infant from the sun and heat in a car.

1. Establish safeguard agreements with other care providers. 

Ask your daycare provider to call if your child is more than 10 minutes late. Be extra cautious when there is a shift in your routine, like when another person is taking your child somewhere or you drive a different way to work or daycare. If someone else is driving your child, always follow up with a phone call to ensure they have arrived safely. Create a habit of always checking the back seat to ensure no children are in the car before locking it and walking away.

2. Always lock your vehicle when parked and keep keys away from children. 

Numerous hot car deaths have occurred when children mistakenly locks themselves inside. Keep rear fold-down seats closed to keep a child from climbing into the trunk from inside the vehicle. Teach kids that cars are not safe places to play, and remind them that cars, especially the trunk, should never be used for games like hide-and-seek. 

Teach kids that if they’re ever stuck in a vehicle and can't get out, to crawl into the driver's seat and sound the horn. They may have to use their feet to manage enough pressure to honk the horn. Tell them to continue honking until a grown-up comes to rescue them. Important tip: If a child is missing, always check the pool first, and then the car, including the trunk!

3. Create an external cue every time you put your child in the car as a reminder. 

For example, some caregivers place their infant’s diaper bag, coat, or hat in the front passenger seat as a reminder. Alternatively, establish a new habit of making yourself go to the back seat every day. Consider always putting your cell phone, bag, briefcase, lunchbox, or purse in the back seat so that you automatically check that area when you arrive at your destination.

4. Never, ever leave a child alone in a car for any amount of time, even in mild weather. 

Cars heat up fast! In only 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20° F. Heat stroke can happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57° F. Cracking a window doesn’t do much to keep the vehicle cool once the ignition is turned off.

Be on alert for other cars that may have a child left alone inside. If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call 911. Stay with the child until help arrives and have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them.​



The Takeaway

Even if you can’t fathom making such an error, it’s essential to use these tips to safeguard your children from being trapped inside a hot vehicle. Any parent or caregiver, even a very caring and vigilant one, can experience a memory lapse and forget a child is in the back seat. Having a change in the daily routine or being particularly busy or preoccupied can heighten that risk. 

Shop All Car Seats


Join Our Mailing List

Sign Up for exclusive updates,
new arrivals & insider-only discounts
Prev Post
Next Post

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Recently Viewed

Edit Option
is added to your shopping cart.
this is just a warning
Login Close