TEXAS VIEW: Heat and cars are deadly combination

THE POINT: As temperatures edge back into the mid 90s, it’s time to think about the impact heat can have in a closed vehicle — especially on children.

Leaving children alone in a car is dangerous in the best of circumstances and in some cases illegal, even when heat is not a factor.

A variety of disaster scenarios easily could occur when children and vehicles are involved.

  • A parent with too much on their mind in a quiet car might forget to drop off a sleeping baby with the child care provider.
  • An open car or trunk could look like an ideal spot for hide-and-seek for a 5-year-old.
  • Running into a store for “just a second” might seem harmless while a child buckled into his seat waits in the car.

All three situations potentially are deadly. Around 37 children die each year because of a deadly combination of heat and vehicles. Twenty-nine suffered fatal heat strokes in 2023, and two have already fallen victim this year, according to the National Safety Council.

A child who is left inside a car or is trapped while playing in a car can suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke or death in only minutes.

Consider this: At 85 degrees the interior of a vehicle can reach 100 in around eight minutes. At 100, which we are currently nearing, the interior of a vehicle can hit 140 degrees or hotter in 15 minutes.

The third scenario, leaving a child in a running car, could lead to several possible outcomes, and possibly a criminal charge. The offense is committed when the child is left for more than five minutes, is younger than 7 years old and is not attended by a person 14 or older.

If the child gets hurt, the charge can become a felony of child endangerment and is punishable by six months to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

In an effort to protect children, and avoid potentially deadly situations, the Department of Family and Protective Services offered these tips:

  • Never leave your car keys where children can get them.
  • Keep car doors and trunks locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.
  • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a car, even if the windows are down and a windshield shade is in place or even just to run a quick errand.
  • Make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination.
  • Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
  • If your child does get locked inside a car, get him or her out as soon as possible. If you can’t get him or her out yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Stay safe, and make sure your kids do too.

Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel