Heat and Automobiles - A Dangerous Combination

     (Click image above for link to animation) 

Heat is the deadliest weather phenomemon that impacts the United States annually.
 Every year, an average of 117 people die from heat related illnesses - which is more than the average fatalities from lightning, floods or tornadoes. 

 Of these heat fatalities, nearly 33% are due to young children being left in enclosed vehicles.

U.S. Hyperthermia Deaths of Children in Vehicles through 1998-2012. Chart shows 29-49 deaths per years with no clear upward or downward trend over time.
Courtesy of San Francisco State University. Use of this graph does not imply NWS endorsement of services provided by San Francisco State University.


 How Fast Can the Sun Heat a Car?

The temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to extremely dangerous levels. Studies have indicated the following temperature increases inside automobiles: 

Average Time

Temp. Rise
Inside Auto (approx.)

10 minutes

20 °F

20 minutes

30 °F

30 minutes

35 °F

60 minutes

43 °F

2 hours

45 - 50 °F

To determine the temperature in the automobile, add the number in the chart to the air temperature outdoors. You can see that on a 90° day, the temperature will jump to about 120° in only 20 minutes, and around 133° in only an hour!

Take a few extra moments to make sure that you don't leave a young child, or pet, in the backseat of an automobile, especially on days when the heat and humidity are dangerous. BEAT THE HEAT...CHECK THE BACKSEAT

Check out NOAA's tips on staying healthly and cool during heat waves.

Here are additional items related to heat and automobiles:

  • Young children, elderly or pets should never be left unattended in vehicles, under ANY circumstances! Car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.
  • Cracking a window has little effect in "cooling" the inside of the auto for occupants left behind.
  • Heat kills. In the past 15 years, more than 560 children died from hyperthermia (heat stroke) after being left in cars, OR after gaining access to unattended autos. ALWAYS lock your auto to keep young children from gaining access to the vehicle on warm or hot days.
  • If you see a young child left unattended in a hot vehicle - call 9-1-1 immediately!
  • Illinois is one of several states that has a law which prohibits leaving young children unattended in a hot vehicle. 


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