University of Georgia

Preventing deaths of children in hot cars

car interior with bright sun outside

In July 2017, 11 children in the U.S. died in cars as a result of vehicular heatstroke, but new research from UGA shows that most parents don’t believe it could happen to them.

Castle Williams, a doctoral student in geography, interviewed parents and caregivers as well as experts in meteorology, epidemiology, psychology and child injury about the topic. The results show significant differences in how parents and experts perceive information about the dangers of hot cars.

Unlike the experts, parents often thought that these incidents happened as a result of intentional behavior by a parent or caretaker or that lifestyle factors, such as low income, increased an individual’s likelihood of forgetting a child in a car.

Williams says that parents’ ability to acknowledge that they too might accidentally forget a child in a hot car is important in improving public health messaging and preventing future deaths.

“Until we can convince parents that this can happen to anyone, we are going to continue to see case after case of children being forgotten in hot cars,” she says.

The findings were published in the journal Injury Prevention.

This brief appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Research Magazine. The original press release is available at