Vehicular Heatstroke

Vehicular Heatstroke

It is never a good idea to leave a child alone in a parked car – especially in Arizona and especially during the summer months. A vehicle’s interior can heat up 20 degrees in 10 minutes. Even when the outside temperature is in the 60s, a parked vehicle can heat up above 110 degrees. Children are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke in hot cars because their body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adults. In fact, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-collision fatalities for children 14 and younger even though most heatstroke deaths that occur in cars are 100% preventable.

This summer the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is partnering with the Arizona Humane Society and Phoenix Children’s Hospital to raise awareness in our community and keep the number of children and pets left in hot cars to zero. The Vehicular Heatstroke Campaign will run from May 20 through August 31. During our 2017 summer campaign we had two tragic deaths of young children in Maricopa County due to being let in a hot vehicle. We are working to ensure this summer no child or pet is left behind in our community.

Safety Tips

  • Never leave a child or an animal alone in a parked car – even with the windows rolled down or air conditioning on.
  • Always check the back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
  • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk and keep the keys out of a child’s reach. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
  • If dropping a child off is not part of your normal routine, take steps to remind yourself that the child is in the car:
    • Place something you need to take with you in the back seat next to the car seat so that you’ll check the back seat before you leave.
    • Set a reminder on your cell phone or calendar.
    • Instruct your daycare provider to call you if your child does not show up.

Heatstroke Signs and Symptoms

For Kids

  • Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating
  • A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Irritable or strange behavior


For Pets

  • Loud, rapid panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Body temperature over 103 degrees
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Glazed eyes
  • Weakness or collapse

If You See A Child or Pet In A Hot Vehicle
Arizona law protects a person’s use of reasonable force to remove a child or a household pet from a locked and unattended vehicle if the person does ALL of the following:

  • Call 911 immediately - BEFORE entering the vehicle.
  • Has a good faith belief there is an imminent danger of death or physical injury.
  • Checked the vehicle is locked and found no other reasonable way to get the child or pet out.
  • Uses no more force than necessary.
  • Remains at the scene until authorities arrive.

As per Arizona law (A.R.S § 12-558.02) a person is not immune from civil liability if the person fails to abide by any of the provisions above and commits any unnecessary or malicious damage to the motor vehicle.

Compiled by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

  • From 1998 to April of 2018, 744 children have died nationwide as a result of vehicular heatstroke.
    • 54% were forgotten in the vehicle.
    • 27% gained access by themselves and became trapped.
    • 18% were left intentionally.
    • 1% were unknown cases.
  • High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or death.
    • Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and a child’s major organs begin to shut down.
    • Heatstroke becomes fatal at a core body temperature of 107 degrees.
  • Heatstroke fatalities have occurred even in vehicles parked in shaded areas and when the air temperature was 80 degrees or less.

Additional Resources


Arizona Humane Society Logo
Phoenix Childrens Center for Family Health and Safety
Governor's Office of Highway Safety - Ducey Logo