Its Summertime Hot – Children Shouldn’t Be Left to Die

by Diane Dimond on June 25, 2016

Cars + Heat = Death Trap for Children

Cars + Heat = Death Trap for Children



Bossier City, Louisiana— Three-year-old twins, children of a sheriff’s deputy, were found unresponsive inside the family pickup truck on a day temperatures were in the 90’s. They were pronounced dead at the hospital. 

Summer has only just arrived but already the annual death count has begun. Hot, record breaking temperatures have been registered across the country and as painful as the subject may be, reminders must be issued.

As I write this, already this year 13 children have died because they were trapped in hot cars. Equally inexplicably, 3 police dogs lost their lives the same way. Last year’s total was 25 kids and 14 K-9 dogs. Since 1998, the average annual number of child heatstroke fatalities in the U.S. is 38 and since that year 676 kids have died in this horrible organ-roasting, cardiac-arresting way.

While only 20 states have laws on the books that make it a crime to leave a child unattended in a vehicle there are other laws prosecutors use to criminally charge caregivers of children who die this way, accident or not.

Shadoe Pate's Grandma Made a Tragic Move

Shadoe Pate’s Grandmother Made a Tragic Move

The nation’s first child heatstroke death this year underscored that tragedy can happen even on a cloudy day when temperatures are below 70 degrees because children overheat up to five times faster than adults.  In January this year, 13-month old Shadoe Braxton Pate of Walker County, Georgia died of heatstroke on a cold day after his grandmother left him sleeping in the car with the heat running while she visited with friends – for five hours. Inside the car the temperature quickly rose to over 100 degrees. Grandma has been charged with second degree murder and cruelty to children.

This spring, in Tennessee, Texas and Georgia law enforcement officers working K-9 duty each left their canine companion in a hot car and the dogs died. Two of the three men have been charged with animal cruelty. At last report. the handler in Georgia was so distraught he was hospitalized and resigned his post but he may still face charges.

This Georgia Dog Handler Caused the Death of His Dog

This Georgia Dog Handler Caused the Death of His Dog

Sometimes a child inadvertently causes their own death as was the case in Houston this month when a 3-year-old boy crawled into the back seat of the family’s unlocked car to retrieve a toy. The child protective locks were engaged and he was unable to open the back door. Forty-five minutes later he was found by his frantic mother, dead. Police filed no charges in that case.

It is rare that anyone deliberately stages a hot car death. This past week marked the second anniversary of the death of little Cooper Harris in Cobb County, Georgia. In a headline grabbing case, prosecutors say the 22-month old’s father, Justin Ross Harris, deliberately left his son in the scorching July heat and that activity on his computer would prove he wanted a “child free life.” That activity included researching hot car deaths, how to survive in prison and sexting with at least six different women, some of them minors, as his son struggled in his car seat that awful day. When Harris goes on trial later this summer he’s expected to plead not guilty and continue to maintain the boy’s death was an accident.

Justin Harris is Accused of Murdering His Child

Justin Harris is Accused of Murdering His Child, Son Cooper

Chris Wilkinson, a trauma flight medic, is a former friend of Harris. She is sickened by the frequency of hot car deaths of children, especially Cooper’s given the circumstances surrounding his father’s behavior. She’s launched an internet based #2Hot2Leave campaign seeking to educate people about how easily kids and animals can succumb in the heat of a car. Even with windows cracked the temperature can rise almost 30 degrees in 20 minutes. Hyperthermia in children is often deadly.

Wilkinson is also pushing Baby Cooper’s Law which calls for tough, mandatory penalties for those leaving children and animals to die, protects those who break in to a car during a rescue from arrest or civil suit and mandatory seat alarms.

“It blows my mind,” Wilkinson says, “that we can have alarms to tell you that you left your keys in the ignition or your lights on…but not that you left a living being in the car.”

Hot car deaths Wilkinsons CampaignEven great parents can forget a daycare drop-off when they’re tired and rushing to work. So here are some tips to clip and hand to parents, grandparents and caregivers. Put your purse, briefcase, cell phone or even one of your shoes in the back with baby as an extra reminder. Make a pact with the sitter to call you if your child is late by 20 minutes. Teach children the car is not a place to play, always lock it and keep the keys out of reach. Finally, if you see a child alone in a car call 911 immediately. Seriously, every minute counts.



Lisa June 25, 2016 at 11:10 pm

I know. What is wrong with people?

This counts for animals also. 🙂

Diane Dimond June 26, 2016 at 9:18 am

Creators Syndicate Reader Kobra writes:

“Amazingly now, in the 21st century, while Curiosity is exploring the red planet, here on earth people refuse to implement a simple technological solution to stop the slaughter of our kids and pets in hot cars. The most reliable and affordable solution is but try to make sense on a planet worshiping biebers and kardashians.”

Vicky Johnson June 27, 2016 at 5:35 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this message out there. The law needs to be passed in ALL STATES!

Diane Dimond June 27, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Reader Sam Landsman writes:

“Hi Diane,
I read your story about the deadly conditions of hot cars. Sadly, this seems like a growing epidemic. I was happy to see that you offered many tips to help stop this growing trend.
Over the last few years, Kars4Kids has been raising awareness of the dangers of leaving kids in hot cars, and has taken some steps to help prevent such tragedies from occurring. I would like to bring to your attention some of our efforts that many people have found valuable.
Last summer we produced a viral video showing what happens when ADULTS are left in a hot car. With close to 3 million views, the message that even adults cannot sweat it out in a hot car (even for $100) has really resonated well with people.
We also developed a free app that caretakers can download which alerts them to take their child out when leaving their car. The app is available here
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
All the best,
Media Relations

Diane Dimond June 27, 2016 at 11:22 pm

Facebook Friend Robert B. Reno writes:

“Thank you for posting this. As a paramedic I have responded to too many cases of hyperthermia in children. If people could see what I have seen they would never leave children or pets in a hot car.”

Diane Dimond June 27, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Facebook Friend Nancy Robel writes:

“Great article, Diane and a good reminder of how quickly things can go wrong with our children, not to mention the opportunities afforded to child predators when they are left alone.”

Diane Dimond June 27, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Facebook Friend Dawn Dix writes:

“I find it disheartening that this sentiment needs to even be SAID every summer .”

Diane Dimond June 28, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Reader writes:

“How do you forget you have a child in a vehicle I don’t understand that I have 3 and they don’t stop arguing lol and I have never forgot I have them with me even when I don’t I look back in the seats I just can’t understand how you hook them in and then just forgot and if you have to be told that probably shouldn’t have kids same goes with a animal.”

Lisa July 8, 2016 at 2:04 am

Since you wrote this–3 more babies have died in hot car deaths.

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