Prevent hot car deaths by always checking the backseat
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Prevent hot car deaths by always checking the backseat

Summer might be a favorite for travel and fun, but it’s important to stay safe from torching temperatures in Texas by always checking the backseat and making sure kids are protected from the heat.

As temperatures climb into the triple digits during the Texas summer, conditions can become deadly for people, pets, and especially children.

“We have to remember that children’s bodies heat up a lot faster than an adult because of their size, so we need to make sure we never leave them outside in a vehicle,” said TxDOT El Paso Traffic Safety Specialist Monica O’Kane.

According to the Texas Heatstroke Task Force, children have died in hot cars even in moderate temperatures, but most deaths occur in the months of June, July, and August, making prevention even more critical during this time.

“Sometimes parents think well, the truck is in the shade, or the air conditioner is on in the truck, or I’m parked under a shady tree, it’s okay to leave the child there. And unfortunately, it’s never okay to leave the child,” O’Kane said.

O’Kane educates parents on car seat safety and reminds parents to never leave their children unattended. While it is against the law, it can also be a deadly decision.

The web site shows 948 children have died due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) since 1998, most because they were forgotten by a caregiver. So far in 2023, eight have died, including one in Houston.

“We are creatures of habit so sometimes the parent unintentionally will leave the child in the seat,” O’Kane said. “Say for example mom always takes baby to the daycare. For some reason dad takes baby to the daycare, but he’s used to going straight to work. What we want to do is leave a reminder for when that happens, leaving a lanyard, phone, bag, wallet to ensure you look in the back seat before leaving the vehicle.”

Depending on what part of Texas you’re in, that heat can feel differently as locations like Presidio and El Paso experience a dry heat versus cities like San Antonio that experience humidity. Triple digits are not rare in the state.

“The record high temperature for Texas is 120F, which has occurred at three different locations across the state,” said Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service.

Murphy said that temperature has occurred in three different areas:

·         Monahans, TX---Ward County—on June 28, 1994

·         Olney, TX--------Young County--- on June 3, 1998

·         Seymour, TX----Baylor County--- on August 12, 1936

“As for which is worse, heat or humidity, the answer would be both,” Murphy said.  “The NWS uses a value called “heat index”, which is also known as the apparent temperature.  This is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.” 

The NWS generally issues Heat Advisory product when Heat Index values reach 105F.  The NWS issues Excessive Heat Warnings when these values reach the 110F to 115F value.

Take precautions against Texas heat, call 9-1-1 if you see a child unattended in the vehicle.

Learn more:

National Safety Council’s Children in Hot Cars Training - A short, free online training about how vehicular heatstroke occurs and ways to prevent it. 

Child Passenger Safety Board heatstroke prevention resources - Scroll to the lower part of the page for links to many national programs regarding heatstroke prevention.