As the mercury in our thermometers soars, so is the number of children who are dying in hot vehicles. While this has always been an issue, the amount of occurrences has greatly increased this year in the sweltering heat. Some of these events are accidents; others are intentional- homicide.
Parents of these children often tell themselves, “Just a few minutes.” It’s not uncommon to make a rest stop on long trips- in these instances, it’s usually quicker to go without the kids. However, convenience is always accompanied with sacrifice. As a Herald Tribune story reported earlier this summer, Uriel Hernandez of Sarasota, Fla. experienced heartbreaking loss after assuring himself he’d only be gone for a short time. In the early morning, Hernandez placed his sleeping two year old daughter inside of his vehicle, but realized that he had forgotten his cell phone charger inside of his apartment. He picked up the charger and fell asleep.
Five hours later, Hernandez emerged from the building and opened the car door. His daughter was unresponsive, and several 911 calls later, it was confirmed. She was dead.
The most painful aspect of this incident was that it was completely preventable. Had the father gotten hold of his charger in a timely fashion or brought his daughter inside, the entire ordeal could have been avoided. Because of similar occurrences, Florida has implemented a law in which it is a misdemeanor to leave a child alone in a car for more than fifteen minutes, and states such as Nevada, Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington have made it a misdemeanor to leave a child (defined differently in each state) unsupervised in a car at all. In total, just 19 states out of all 50 have rules addressing this serious issue, according to the organization Kids and Cars.
Unfortunately, there are cases that fall on the other side of the spectrum, in which a parent commits the unthinkable. They leave their child alone, on purpose, to suffocate and overheat in their vehicle.
This was the case when father Justin Harris of Atlanta, as reported by CNN this summer, left his toddler Cooper inside of his car. Through simulations of the situation, experts believe the temperature of the vehicle could have been as high as 140 degrees. The astonishing thing about this incident, however, was how exactly Harris managed to “forget” his son inside the car.After “forgetting” to drop Cooper off at daycare, Harris drove to work. Later in the day, he would place a box of lightbulbs right next to his son. Only hours later did the father notice the dead child.
Obviously, under the circumstances, officials did not believe Harris’s story of forgetfulness and took the investigation further by looking through his Internet history. Gabe Gutierrez later confirmed for NBC News that the police had discovered Harris had previously searched for information regarding child deaths in hot cars. This was prior to Cooper’s death.
While there are laws and rules concerning this grave issue, it clearly is not enough. Children are continuing to perish in these accidents and more awareness needs to be spread. The other 31 states must take measures to prevent more deaths. Creating more stringent regulations would incentivize parents to take more precautions- to not leave their child in these dangerous conditions.
Convenience is never worth the life of a child.