It was supposed to be a quick trip with the child’s mother and 8-year-old sister to get ready for the sister’s birthday party, in Northeast Harris County. They returned home in a rush to prepare for the celebration, and both mother and daughter hurried into the house without checking the safety seat, according to preliminary information from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
“They exited the car, saw the 8-year-old and assumed the other child was out also,” Gonzalez wrote on Facebook, adding that the 5-year-old is usually able to unbuckle and exit on his own. On that day, they were using a loaner vehicle, however.
After two or three hours, Gonzalez said, the mother realized she couldn’t find her son and ran outside, where she found him still in the car seat. EMS was called and the boy was pronounced dead at the scene.
While the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, it has not said whether the mother will face charges.
More than 1,000 children have died in hot cars since 1990 and at least another 7,300 survived with varying types and severities of injuries, according to data collected by Kids and Car Safety. Texas leads the nation with the most hot car deaths involving children, with a total of 149 since 1990, according to the nonprofit.
The good news is that technology exists that can prevent these unthinkable tragedies.
“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of why it is extremely important to have effective occupant detection technology as standard equipment in all vehicles as quickly as possible,” stated Janette Fennell, founder and president of “Kids and Car Safety,” the leading national nonprofit working solely to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles. “Every day that we delay in advancing these cost-effective detection technologies means children are needlessly at risk of dying. An occupant detection and alert system could have gotten assistance to this sweet angel before it was too late.”
The danger of serious injury or death from just a short time inside a sealed, hot car is often underestimated. “Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death,” the nonprofit says.
Here are some Safety Tips for Parents and Caregivers:
- Create simple habits to help keep your child safe.
- Make sure your child is never left alone in a car.
- Place the child’s diaper bag or item in the front passenger seat as a visual cue that the child is with you. Make it a habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure no one is left behind. To enforce this habit, place an item that you can’t start your day without in the back seat (employee badge, laptop, phone, handbag, etc.)
- Ask your childcare provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
- Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle. Miscommunication can lead to thinking someone else removed the child.
Make sure children cannot get into a parked car:
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway. Ask neighbors and visitors to do the same.
- Never leave car keys within reach of children.
- Use childproofing knob covers and door alarms to prevent children from exiting your home unnoticed.
- Teach children to honk the horn or turn on hazard lights if they become stuck inside a car.
- If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area carefully, even if they’re locked.
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For more information, visit Kids and Car Safety.