Hot cars are having their annual media moment this month as temperatures rise across the United States and some parents do the unthinkable: leave their children in their vehicles.
The most infamous trial right now is that of Justin Ross Harris, whose 22-month-old son died strapped to a child’s seat in the Georgia heat. Cooper Harris suffocated when his father left him in an SUV for seven hours in June. Harris has been charged with murder and child cruelty but has pleaded not guilty.
Cooper’s mother’s attorney Lawrence Zimmerman said she is “living ever parent’s nightmare,” in a statement on Tuesday.
A story like this should be enough to make even the most lax of parents afraid to leave anything in their vehicle, let alone their children. But many continue to make Harris’ fatal mistake. According to KidsAndCars, a national non-profit, 44 children died from heat stroke in cars in 2013 and 717 children have died since 1990. As of July 11, 17 children have died from heat stroke this year.
Here’s what you need to know as the kids and cars discussion heats up.
-Deaths continue, even after the widespread media attention the Harris family received. Last week, a 3-year-old boy in South Carolina died when he was locked in a parked car outside his home on one of the hottest days of the year. The child’s grandfather told authorities that the 3-year-old got in the car with the family dog after his mother accidentally fell asleep. Meanwhile in Connecticut, a 15-month-old tot died in a parking lot after his father forgot to drop him off at day care.
-Strangers have begun breaking into vehicles with unattended children inside. On Monday, a group of shoppers at a strip mall in Texas used a hammer to smash in a car window when they saw two young children left in a Jeep, according to KHOU-11 News. Gabriel Del Valle, who recorded to incident with his cell phone, said the children trapped in the car were crying. They appeared to be unharmed, if traumatized, and the mother claims she only left them in there while she was getting a haircut.
-Last week a man posted a video on YouTube in an attempt to document what it feels like to be left in a hot car. The results are horrifying, even for a grown man who only managed to stay in the car for 20 minutes.
-Cars, like our phones, have become quite smart. But according to KidsAndCars.org, they still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to transporting children. The group launched a petition seeking funding from the Department of Transportation for technology that will detect when a child is left alone in a car.
-There is now an app that will remind parents to check their backseat for a child. Kars4Kids, available on Google Play, is designed to “alert drivers when they leave their cars to remember there is a baby in the backseat.”