NOT A HOT IDEA
By Karl K
How can a parent forget that a child is locked in a hot car? As I write this, I still cannot believe how this could possibly be.
It happens more than you would ever think. The situation is getting worse, not better. The child’s temperature can rise quickly and die at 107 degrees. They must be cooled off quickly. Between 2018 and 2020, a record number of children (126) died due to vehicular heatstroke. 1
Here are three primary circumstances resulting in deaths of children in hot cars:
- A caregiver forgetting a child in a vehicle.
- The child gaining access to the vehicle.
- Someone knowingly leaving a child in the vehicle.
- “NSC advises parents and caregivers to stick to a routine and avoid distractions to reduce the risk of forgetting a child. Place a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to force you to take one last look before walking away. Keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access and teach them that cars are not play areas. There is no safe amount of time to
leave a child in a vehicle, even if you are just running a quick errand.” 2
The first step is to be sure you lock your car door and trunk, where children cannot get in. The second is to be observant, when people look through a car window to see if child is inside. Here are some tips:
“1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended — even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on.
2. Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away. Train yourself to Park, Look, Lock, or always ask yourself, “Where’s Baby?“
3. Ask your childcare provider to call if your child does not show up for care as expected.
4. Place a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat, as another reminder to look before you lock. Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.
5. Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.” 3
I could hardly write this piece. This was very hard for me. You see, my goddaughter was accidentally locked in a car at a mall in Las Cruces, New Mexico when she was only 7 years old. Her Mom put the keys on the seat and lost sight of them I ran to the store to see if I could find a hanger to open the car window. I did, and all went well. Had that not happened, I was ready to break the window.
There are many examples of near-tragedy or worse. Here are three:
In 2019, a Georgia father was convicted of murder after leaving his son in a hot car two summers ago. His 22-month-old toddler was left in a car for seven hours. Jurors believed he left the little boy to die on purpose, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was also convicted of eight counts of malice murder, felony murder, cruelty to children in the first and second degree, and sexual exploitation of and dissemination of harmful material to minors. 4
That same year, in Garland, police took a call from a car wash at Jupiter and Arapaho. The temperature was 97 degrees at that time. Witnesses saw the father had parked and was vacuuming his car when he suddenly pulled the limp baby out and appeared frantic. Employees at the car wash said they saw a driver go through the wash, park his car, and start vacuuming. They said 10 or 15 minutes later, they saw him running. The 9-month-old girl was found dead 5
Close to home, I know a man well from my own church and Masonic Lodge who was fortunate. Distracted by a change in their morning routine, he left his 3-year-old son, Michael, asleep in the back seat of the car when he returned home on June 10, 2015. He is now well, but behind in several areas in his development. As a result, he and his wife have presented this story to several audiences, including television appearances. “It can happen to you,” he said. “I was the guy that spent an awful lot of time beating up on the internet parents that bad things happen to”. She urged parents “to check the back seat every time, even when you know you don’t have your kids with you, and you are positive they are not there. Look in the back seat just to make sure, because the moment that you think you’re safe could be the moment that you’re not. That moment can get away from you, and if you’re not fortunate – as fortunate as we were – you’re going to live with the consequences for the rest of your life.” 6
I wish I did not feel this way. I am a forgiving person. I just cannot get past this. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes. But, I cannot see how, even as busy or distracted as someone can be, what is so pressing that a child is forgotten. I welcome any comments that our readers wish to offer,
6 https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/garland-couple-warns-about-hot-car dangers/2019351/