While school bus data was not immediately available, the National Safety Council says that between 31 and 43 children die each year in hot vehicles. Above and beyond school district liability and driver employment, this is a reminder that leaving children alone on school buses can have fatal consequences.
A 2005 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that more than 90 percent of children were forgotten by relatives, most often by parents. Another 18 percent of children crawl into the vehicles themselves.
"It can and does happen to people who think they would never forget their child," writes the National Safety Council on its Web site.
Unfortunately this can and does happen on school buses, as well, despite industry best practices that have the driver and or monitor check each seat row for sleeping children or utilize a reminder product. There have been no known U.S. child deaths on board a U.S. school bus after they were left behind by the driver for many years, at least no cases were turned up after a quick Web search. But the nation of Qatar suffered a child fatality earlier this year.
Motor vehicles, and school buses, can heat up rapidly to fatal levels, NSC said. Outside temperatures of 70 degrees outside can result in a vehicle interior temperature rising more than 40 degrees in an hour, and leaving windows open doesn’t help keep the vehicle cooler.
A child’s body temperature rises three- to five-times faster than an adult's body. When in hot vehicles, children are at risk of hypethermia. Hyperthermia is commonly called heatstroke or sunstroke, and can be fatal to children and pets left in vehicles. For children who survive, it can cause permanent brain damage, NSC adds. Nothing is mentioned about leaving children in cold weather, but common sense dictates that is no better of a scenario, with hypothermia a possible result.
A March 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post story shares how this can happen due to life situations and the human memory.