Children and Hot Vehicles in Brazil *
Driely Costa1
Federal University of Juiz de Fora
Andrew Grundstein
University of Georgia


What is Vehicle Hyperthermia?

Cars and other vehicles can heat up quicker than outside air temperatures. This occurs because of a “greenhouse effect” where energy from sunlight passes through the car’s windows and becomes trapped in the vehicle. For example, a car can heat up by 29°F (16°C) in 15 minutes and 47°F (26°C) within one hour.3 Children are more sensitive to heat than adults and the high temperatures inside a car may lead to heatstroke.

How Many Incidents?
From 2006-2018, we identified 59 cases of children being left unattended in vehicles and 25 deaths from heatstroke.4

Where does it happen?
These cases occur all over Brazil but the greatest number are in the southeastern region, especially near the city of Sao Paulo (Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Incidents of children left unattended in motor vehicles from 2006-2018.


How does it Happen?

There are many circumstances under which a child may be left unattended in a vehicle, including being forgotten by a caregiver, being intentionally left behind in the vehicle, or self-entrapment when a child gains access to an unlocked car (Figure 2). In Brazil, we found that most cases involved a child being forgotten. Parents are most often associated with these incidents (47%) but childcare providers (42%) and relatives (10%) have also left children unattended in vehicles. 

These deaths are very preventable!
Never leave a child alone in a vehicle.
If you have young children, always check the back seat before leaving your vehicle.
Always lock the doors to prevent children from accessing the vehicle.
If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call emergency services.
Develop an arrival/absence confirmation with daycare providers. 

* Portuguese Translation

Contact Information
1 Driely Costa
Department of Environmental and Health Engineering, Federal University of Juiz de Fora
Juiz de Fora, MG 36036-900, Brazil

2 Andrew Grundstein
Department of Geography, University of Georgia
Athens, GA, 30602-2502, U.S.A.


3 Grundstein, A., J. Dowd, and V. Meentemeyer, 2010: Quantifying the Heat-Related Hazard for Children in Motor Vehicles. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 91(9), 1183-1191.

4 Costa, D., A. Grundstein, 2016: An Analysis of Children Left Unattended in Parked Motor Vehicles in Brazil. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13, 649.