On average, 38 children die each year after being left in a locked hot car
Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car, and the end result can be injury or even death.
Since 2013 more than 230 children have died after being left in a hot car.
The 2018 numbers for children across the United States who have died of heatstroke when left in hot cars were released with a record high of 51, and 5 were in Texas. Officially the worst year in U.S. history, 2018 surpassed the devastating death toll of 49 children in 2010 according to KidsAndCars.org.
“Here in Corpus, not to my knowledge did we have any child deaths attributed to a child being locked in a vehicle,” Corpus Christi Police Department Lt. Michael Pena said. “You always want to make sure you protect your children. When you get out of the vehicle, go ahead and remove the child with you when you exit the vehicle.”
Most of the new technology focuses on reminding parents that a child may still be in the back seat after the ignition is turned off. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, half of children’s heatstroke deaths in cars occur when a caregiver unintentionally leaves a child in the vehicle.
“Go ahead and contact the police department, call 911 and what will happen is that we will dispatch an officer and also contact a local company to help us gain entry to the vehicle, and we will get there and hopefully get the child out as soon as possible, ” Pena said.
In 2018 no deaths were reported in Nueces County, but the Corpus Christi Police Department did respond to 175 calls. For those who aren’t in the market to buy a new car seat or vehicle, there are other simple solutions.
“One of the things you can always do is put something in the back of the vehicle with your child,” Pena said. “Say you put your wallet, your purse, and I have even seen where some people suggest taking off one of your shoes and putting it in the backseat with the child, and once you get out of the vehicle and step out you realize you don’t have a shoe; it is in the backseat with your child.”
The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that they could never unknowingly leave a child behind in a vehicle. This can happen to the most responsible and attentive parents. Nobody is immune.
The average temperature rise is 3.2 degrees for every 5 minutes on a sunny day. And 80 percent of the temperature increase happens in the first 10 minutes. Even with windows cracked, temperatures can reach 125 degrees, putting children and pets at risk within minutes.
When it’s 80 degrees outside, it can get to 99 degrees inside after 10 minutes and 114 after 30 minutes. When it’s 85 degrees outside it can get to 104 degrees inside after 10 minutes and 119 after 30 minutes.
Leaving a Child in a Vehicle
Texas State Law Codes 22.10
(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is:
(1) younger than 7 years of age; and
(2) not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older. (b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
If the child is injured the charge is then child endangerment, which is a felony. The penalties are six months to two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
How heat kills kids
The central nervous system is not fully developed in children, and this makes their bodies less able to cope with temperature changes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Children have difficulty remaining hydrated for this same reason. And a child’s core body temperature can rise five times more quickly than that of an adult.
When body temperature rises, heatstroke may occur. Also referred to as hyperthermia and heat illness, it can cause alterations in consciousness and lead to permanent brain, heart and kidney damage. In a worst-case scenario, heatstroke places a person, child or adult at risk of death.