Every year, an average of 39 children die in unattended hot cars. However, for the past two years, that number has been much higher.
In 2018, a record number of 53 children died, with another 52 in 2019. As temperatures soar this summer, we encourage you to be extra cautious about kids and hot cars.
How These Tragedies Happen
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, the majority of these car deaths occur when parents simply forget that their kids are in the car. Researchers found that of the hot car deaths, most often parents forgot to drop off their infant children at daycare.
25% of deaths happen when kids get into unattended vehicles that were left unlocked. And as for the remaining incidents, deaths happen when parents leave their children in the car for “just a minute” while they run an errand.
Temperatures inside vehicles can rise quickly, even when it’s not that hot outside. In addition, body temperature in children rises “three to five times faster” than an adult, according to the NHTSA. Just because you would be fine waiting for five or ten minutes in a car doesn’t mean your child will be.
Father ‘Blanked Out’ and Left Children in Car All Day
In July 2019, Juan Rodriguez drove to work after dropping his 1-year-old twins off at daycare. But there was just one problem–the children were still in the backseat. He hadn’t actually dropped them off, and little Luna and Phoenix died.
Rodriguez claimed that he simply “blanked out” and forgotten the small but important step in his daily routine. He entered a guilty plea on two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, and late last month he was sentenced to supervised release, meaning he won’t serve any jail time.
It sounds like something out of a lurid made-for-TV movie, but the truth is that any parent can make a similar mistake with fatal consequences.
Crime or Negligence?
The tragic case of the Rodriguez family makes it clear how easy it is to have a momentary lapse in concentration. However, one Oklahoma man might have used negligence as a cover for murder.
This summer, Dustin Dennis was charged with second-degree murder after leaving his two young children in the back of his truck. He claimed that he had gone to a gas station around the corner with the kids, 4-year-old Teagan and 3-year-old Ryan, and then returned home to take a nap. He forgot to get them out of the car, and they were found dead that afternoon.
The children’s aunt believes it was a tragic accident. “We have just been informed that there is evidence showing that this was nothing but a tragic accident,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page for the family. “I am not sure it makes it any easier because even though you want to place blame there is no one to blame.”
However, investigators aren’t so sure. The case has been made more difficult because the children and their mother were members of the Cherokee Nation, placing the case under federal jurisdiction.