CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As temperatures rise, Texas, and states across the country will see an increase in the number of deaths caused by a child or pet left in the car. According to Karen Beard, the Injury Prevention Training Coordinator at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Texas has four or five hot-car-related child deaths every year.
“It’s something that is 100 percent preventable,” Beard said.
Beard said sometimes parents get into a routine, and become so used to doing something one way, that they go on auto-pilot, which could lead to a parent forgetting their child was even in the back seat. She recommends putting something in the back seat with your child.
“Put your computer, your purse, your cell phone, a shoe that you have to wear into the office. Something that you need at your next destination - put next to your child,” she said.
Holly Schmidt is a mother of nine and a native of Texas. She said she has heard stories of children dying after being left in a hot car, and it breaks her heart.
“I think my first thought is, ‘oh my gosh that could happen to me.’ As a mom with nine kids, there have been times where I’ve been scattered, and my mind has been on other things, and it terrifies me to think that it could happen,” she said.
Schmidt said one time she was coming home late one winter night, and one of her children had fallen asleep in the car. When she got inside the house, she noticed one of her kids was missing.
“It was the worst 15 seconds of my life. She was fine, but what that did was it woke me up that I could leave my kids in the car,” she said.
So, Schmidt started leaving her driver’s door open until all her kids were accounted for leaving the car.
However, forgetting a child or pet in the car isn’t the only instance where injury or death can occur, as sometimes people will leave a child or pet in the car to run into a store quickly, but CCFD Chief Robert Rocha said even a few minutes in a hot car can have dire consequences.
“When you have the vehicle closed up, it’s metal, with windows, the sun rays actually increase the temperature inside of the vehicle. We want to make sure that you understand that it works like a convection oven, you really have heat rays that are making it detrimental for anybody in the vehicle,” Rocha said. “If you are running an errand, make sure you take the child in with you or have another accommodation because you cannot leave a child or a pet in a vehicle during these hot summer months.”
Rocha said with the education the fire department conducts, the city has seen fewer calls for children and pets left in a hot car.
Driscoll Children’s Hospital does have a device available for parents for free that reminds them to check the back seat of the car. It plugs right into the outlet in a car and has two USB charging ports on it.
“Every time I turn off the car, it will say check the back seat. So, it reminds the person as they get out to look in their back seat. We’re trying to do everything here to help keep kids safe,” Beard said.
To request a device, or for other questions on injury prevention through Driscoll Children’s Hospital, contact the hospital at (361) 694-6700.