A new report from the National Safety Council finds that 37 kids die each year from being left in a hot car. And over the last two years, that number is on the rise. In 2016, 39 kids died due to pediatric vehicular hyperthermia while the number climbed to 42 deaths last year. Since 1998, 742 children in the U.S. died due to heatstroke in the car.
According to the study, parental negligence is to blame 55 percent of the time while kids gaining access to the car on their own resulted in 27 percent of the deaths. Despite such a high rate of negligence, however, only 21 states currently have laws in place to punish parents who leave their child in their vehicle. Eight of those states leave open the possibility of a felony charge if a parent is found to have purposefully left their kid in the vehicle.
The reason more states don’t have laws is that most hot-car deaths are ruled accidental ⏤ the tragic result of a parent’s lack of sleep or new routine. It’s why some members of Congress, rather than focus on punishment, have tried to pass laws to help reduce the number of pediatric vehicular hyperthermia cases by promoting smart car seats and advanced warning systems automobiles. Last summer, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill to the Senate that would require cars be equipped with an alarm to alert drivers that there is a child in the back seat.
“A simple sensor could save the lives of dozens of children killed tragically in overheated cars each year, and my bill would ensure such technology is available in every car sold in the United States,” Blumenthal said in a statement.