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Stats show kids still dying in hot cars; experts offer safety tips

Posted at 2:39 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 16:20:16-04

BRAZOS COUNTY, TX — By now, most parents likely know that it’s not safe to leave children in hot cars. Yet, dozens of hot car deaths are still happening across the nation each year; especially in Texas, statistically the leading state for hot car deaths, according to Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension.

Heatstroke can happen when the sky is cloudy, when the outdoor temperature is just 80 degrees, or when a car's windows are cracked. Heatstroke and even death are real threats for kids.

"Unfortunately children's [body temperatures] get hotter five times faster than adults do," said Priscilla Ofori, program coordinator with the AgriLife Extension Passenger Safety program. "And a car will warm up usually 19 degrees hotter than it is outside, in ten minutes.”

Ofori noted that parents aren’t usually leaving kids in cars on purpose. Often, kids are left behind just as the result of a memory lapse. A young child could be quiet and napping in the back seat, and the driver becomes distracted by a busy schedule, subconsciously thinking the child is already back home or at daycare.

Johnny Humphreys, chair for the Texas Heat Stroke Task Force, suggested using tricks to trigger one's memory.

"Create a reminder when you drive, always putting something in the backseat," Humphreys said. "And this could be your purse, your cellphone, your briefcase, whatever you have with you. Do that all the time, even when the child’s not with you. What you are doing is creating a habit: when you get to where you’re going, you’ll check the back seat.”

Humphreys pointed out that there’s another way children can become stuck in cars, that many drivers may not even consider.

"Lock your car," he stressed. "Routinely do this, even when your car is at home. That’s so a child doesn’t get in without you noticing. A lot of deaths that have occurred have been of older children, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, have gotten into a car and nobody knows about it.”

Loving and thoughtful caregivers can still make very human mistakes that put kids at risk. The experts stress that it’s crucial to be deliberate and active in preventing heat stroke and death.