East Texans are no strangers to hot summers, as temperatures go up to triple digits, but many still make fatal mistakes when they leave their cars.
On average, 40 children die of heat stroke each year and countless others are injured – leaving a child in a hot car is a leading factor, one local law enforcement is working to combat.
The Texas Department of Public Safety recently reminded Texas residents leaving children in a hot car could lead to criminal charges of negligence – in the best of circumstances.
“Tragically, children needlessly die every year because they are left unattended in vehicles,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Members of the public can do their part to keep kids safe by notifying emergency personnel if they witness a child alone or in distress inside a vehicle – regardless of the weather. Parents and caregivers should be aware of the dangers.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, temperatures inside a car can rise more than 20 degrees in 10 minutes. Even with an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees.
Leaving windows partially rolled down does not help.
Kilgore Police Department has a project dedicated to showing the dangers a hot car can hold for an unattended child or a pet.
Project Hot Car is a project led by KPD Officer Angela Burch – the project was developed in conjunction with Walmart employee Dede Wayne.
“She and I got together and used Walmart and Kilgore stuff to show that you shouldn’t leave animals or babies in the vehicle,” Burch said.
The KPD forensic officer’s initial advice for anyone who sees a child in a locked car is to call 911 immediately and turn the situation over to police officers or firefighters. They’ll handle it.
However, if the child is in distress, she said, use good judgment, and be prepared to save a life.
The car park outside Walmart is outfitted with a baby doll, a dog and a thermometer that tops out at 130.
Monday afternoon, the needle hovered at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We also wanted to demonstrate animals also,” Burch said. “Texas does not have a statute that currently prohibits leaving your animal in your car, but in can turn into animal cruelty goes into distress or suffers death or injury.”
As Burch checked on the vehicle Monday, numerous passersby entering Walmart noted how hot it was and expressed their shock to see the still-higher temperature inside the KPD cruiser.
“I just wanted to let the public know the dangers of a hot car,” Burch said.