NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently lowered the number of hot car deaths involving children in the U.S., but it has also presented a new risk to children of parents who are working from home.
More children dying of heatstroke have gotten into vehicles on their own instead of being left there by an adult, according to Lisa King of Right Step Learning Center in Nacogdoches and a member of Texas Heatstroke Action Committee.
The assumption is that vehicles are more likely to be parked at home, often unlocked, rather than being driven to a place of employment.
By the end of summer in 2019, there were 52 child deaths across the U.S., 7 of whom lived in Texas. Compare those numbers to the 13 deaths by Aug. 2020 in a hot car, according to KidsandCars.org. Four of those deaths were in Texas.
King says with many working from home, they saw this as opportunity to spend more time with their children but,
“Unfortunately parents get busy at work, they may not have the ability to constantly keep an eye on their child all day long, and that’s what’s happening,” King said.
In the last month, the Lufkin Police Department has written two citations for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. In 2019, they wrote one and in 2018, three were written.
“We know that law enforcement is active and they’re looking for that, especially in parking lots, places like that,” King said. “And the reasons that those citations and all are so important is because a car can heat up 19 degrees in ten minutes. And that’s even with the window cracked open.”
King says that these deaths are preventable and the actions to do so go beyond just locking your vehicle doors.
“Get that key fob out of sight because that key fob is just another device that a child wants to play with,” King said. “And they’ll find it, they’ll hear the horn honk honk, or whatever, and they’re intrigued, and they want to go out there and get in that car.”
According to state law, children must be at least seven years old to be left alone in a car, or have someone 14 or older with them. Leaving a child unattended is considered a misdemeanor and could result in a CPS investigation.