Child deaths are incredibly devastating. Why is Texas number one in this horrible statistic and why aren’t we doing more to stop them?
Today the Star Telegram sadly reported that Texas has ranked #1 in the country over the past 30 years for child deaths in hot cars and trucks. We have lost 135 of our youngest Texans during that time and the country has lost almost 1,000 small children due to the criminal negligence of their drivers.
Here’s another terrible fact: Texas somehow suffers twice as many of these tragedies as California, but they have 10 million more people than we do.
There should be zero of these 100% preventable child deaths.
Be super careful this time of year, North Texas!
MedStar Ambulance has already responded to several of these potentially tragic incidents in Fort Worth this year. Fortunately, no deaths were reported.
But a 4-year-old tragically died in East Texas in April. And in June and July of last year, a 4-year-old and 2-year-old passed away when they were found inside of an oven-like cars outside of Fort Worth and Denton.
With temperatures hitting 98 degrees today and 100 degrees on Friday, it’s time for this public service announcement. This map shows what it will feel like starting today and for the next few months.
How do these child deaths happen?
When a vehicle is stopped with the air conditioning off, the temperature can quickly soar to 140 degrees. Just because you have cracked open the windows or it’s a cloudy day does not give you the right to abandon your child in a hot box. And you probably didn’t know that a child’s small body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s.
The “forgotten baby syndrome” usually happens to first-time parents. They are inexperienced and can be tired, stressed out, or hurried. And the pandemic has savaged family budgets and child care has been jeopardized.
But severe heat is a pernicious problem that must be taken seriously. It kills more people than any other weather pattern, including flooding and hurricanes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been publicizing this serious problem. It even created the National Heatstroke Prevention Day on July 31st to increase awareness.
How to prevent hot car child deaths or injuries
It is shocking that the U.S. has lost 1,000 children from vehicular heatstroke in the past 30 years. People must prevent these senseless child deaths by taking these actions:
- Don’t do it. Never even think about leaving your child so you can go into a store “for a minute.”
2. Leave a reminder. Keep your purse, or cell phone next to the car seat so you must open the back door.
3. Always lock the vehicle. About one-third of these cases happen when a child climbs back inside.
4. Use technology. Create an alert on your cell phone or use Waze or another app to check the back seat.
5. Slow down. This is the same behavior that causes hundreds of thousands of car accidents each year in our country.
6. Call or text the driver. If another person is driving your car, contact them to make sure they arrived safely.
7. Passer-bys must pay closer attention. They can peak inside to make sure car seats are empty.
Signs of heat stroke
Within minutes, heat stroke can shut down the child’s organs and even cause brain injury. These are the symptoms of heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps, and sunburn:
Texas laws are too weak
It has been a felony to abandon or endanger a child (defined as someone who is 14 years old or less) since 1985. The Texas Penal Code, Section 22.041 makes the punishment as high as a first degree felony.
Further, child deaths from being trapped in hot vehicles are such a huge problem that the state of Texas passed a law a few years ago that requires hospitals and birthing facilities to hand out a pamphlet to warn new parents not to do this.
Our children are already extremely vulnerable in a car crash. Our law firm has handled many injury to children cases over the past 40 years. And Mr. Berenson is often appointed by judges to insure that settlements obtained by other personal injury lawyers are fair and reasonable.
We need to strengthen our laws and we better publicize this danger.
New federal law could prevent these child deaths
A bill introduced in the last few sessions of the U.S. Congress would have been a major step to prevent any more child deaths.
The Hot Cars Act would have required the U.S. Department of Transportation to require all new passenger vehicles to have an alert system. It would detect an occupant (whether a child or animal) left unattended after the engine was turned off. The bill had broad bipartisan support (who could be against this?) but it never passed and has not been reintroduced in 2020. That is hard to believe, especially since there are audible and visible warnings just when the driver leaves the lights on or the keys inside.
Other good tips
Don’t forget to do these things as you are outside in our brutal Texas heat.
Especially if you are running, walking, or cycling, make sure you are overly hydrated and wearing reflective, cool clothes and a cap. Also take in electrolytes like sodium (salt) and potassium.
Stay in the shade and take regular breaks.
Stop if you feel any weakness. Get into a cooler environment, raise your feet, lie down, drink water with salt, and apply cold towels and water.
On his long runs or bike rides in the summer heat, Mr. Berenson leaves as early as possible and stops in convenience stores to get ice and water.
Also, don’t forget that your dogs are also at risk.
Finally, never leave hand sanitizer inside your car. It will lose its effectiveness and can even explode.
Contact an experienced Fort Worth car accident lawyer
If your child has been hurt in a vehicle crash – the only cases we handle – contact Berenson Injury Law. Negligent drivers often cause harm to children. We have represented their parents for the past 40 years in personal injury cases and will take all steps to get them the maximum compensation.