Killer Cars: Half of Child Heatstroke Deaths in Cars in 2017 Occurred in Texas
SAN ANGELO, TX – The Texas Department of Public Safety is warning parents about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles. Since 1998, 714 children have died in the U.S. when left unattended in a vehicle, and all those deaths were preventable.
So far in 2017, 14 children have lost their lives and seven of those deaths happened in Texas. DPS Trooper Sergeant Justin Baker of San Angelo provided the details. “Of the 714 children who have died of heatstroke unattended in a vehicle, 54 percent were forgotten by their caregiver, 28 percent were children playing in an unattended vehicle, and 17 percent were children intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.”
Heatstroke or hyperthermia occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. According to Safekids.org, young children are particularly at risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. At 107 degrees, the child can die.
A car can heat up 19 degrees for every 10 minutes and cracking a window doesn’t help. Trooper Baker says it’s really dangerous in West Texas, “80 degrees is dangerous but when you’re at 107 degrees, just a few minutes and you’re at that severe stage.” Baker says avoid relying on auto-start features as well, "Don't rely on the remote start because they can time out. And when they time out, the car heats up."
The DPS says everyone can help prevent the unnecessary and tragic deaths by remembering Safe Kids ACT.
A – Avoid heatstroke related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
C – Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse, or cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine. Baker says you might even take a shoe off, “We even suggest taking off a shoe and placing it next to the child because you’re not going to walk far before you realize, hey! I don’t have a shoe on!”
T –Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to handle these situations and they want you to call. Baker says you might have to go further to safe that child’s life, “If you see that immediately call 911 and if you need to, to save that child’s life, break that window.”
Baker says everyone needs to pay attention, "People get busy with the hustle and bustle of life but we want to avoid tragic and unnecessary heatstroke deaths at all costs."
The San Angelo Police Department agrees and reminds people to be mindful of pets in hot cars too. Officer Tracy Gonzalez recently posted "Every year, dogs suffer and die when their guardians make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car—even for “just a minute”—while they run an errand. Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. And cracking the windows makes no difference."
Gonzalez says if you see a dog in a hot car, call animal control at 325-657-4224. Call Police if the dog is in imminent danger at 325-657-4315 and stay with the dog until help arrives.