Hot Car Deaths: Rising Number Of Children Dying Prompts Hot Cars Act Of 2016

There has been another hot car death where a child has been forgotten by their parents or intentionally left in the car while the parent goes about their day. This week a mother in Texas forgot to drop her 1-year-old baby off at daycare and went to work, leaving the child in the scorching heat all day. At the end of the work day, she went to the Kreative Kids Learning Center to pick the child up and discovered that she had never dropped him off. Police were unable to revive the child when they arrived on the scene.

The death of the Texas boy brings the hot car death toll in the United States up to 30 children this year so far. According to KidsandCars.org, the average number of kids that die as a result of being left in hot cars is typically 37 per year in the United States.

Last week Florida firefighter Troy Whitaker dropped his 5-year-old daughter off at school but apparently forgot to drop his almost 2-year-old son Lawson off at daycare. The young boy was left in the intense Florida heat in a pick-up truck from 8:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. Whitaker reportedly ran errands during the day, including doing some grocery shopping, before realizing his son was still in the car. CPR was attempted in an effort to revive Lawson, but the boy was pronounced dead at the hospital.

As the Inquisitr reported, Troy Whitaker was charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with the hot car death of his son. Whitaker was released from jail after posting a $50,000 bond. A GoFundMe page was set up to raise funds for the father’s legal defense, and not for the funeral costs. The page was eventually shut down although it is not clear whether GoFundMe shut the page down or if its creator did.

One of the most talked about hot car deaths is that of 22-month-old Cooper Harris in 2014. The toddler’s dad Justin Ross Harris was to drop his son off on the way to work on June 18, 2014. The pair stopped at a restaurant for breakfast and Harris should have then driven the short distance to Cooper’s daycare before continuing on to work at The Home Depot headquarters. Instead, he went straight to work and carried on with his day.

Justin Ross Harris
Justin Ross Harris [Image by Stephen B. Morton/The Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP Images]

While Harris has always maintained that the hot car death of Cooper was nothing more than a tragic accident, the police and prosecutors did not believe him. Harris reportedly went to his car during his lunch break at work and opened the door to put something inside of it. As CNN reports, Harris left work around 4:00 p.m. and during his drive to a movie theater he noticed Cooper in the back seat. The medical examiner believed that the boy had been dead for several hours.

Three months after Justin Ross Harris’ son Cooper died in a hot car death, Harris was indicted on several charges including malice murder, two counts of felony murder, and cruelty to children in the first degree. He was also charged with offences related to inappropriate sexual text messages he had sent to underage girls.

The prosecution theory is that Justin Ross Harris intentionally left Cooper in the hot car because he was having several affairs and wanted to be free of children. Investigators found searches on Harris’ computer related to hot car deaths and queries about how to survive in prison. The prosecutor also alleged that Harris should have known as soon as he opened the car door that something was wrong because there was a strong, foul odor in the vehicle.

In April 2016 jury selection began in Harris’ case but as the Inquisitr reported, after impaneling more than 300 potential jurors, they were unable to obtain the 30 jurors necessary to proceed. The defence put forward a motion to move the trial because it was unlikely they could find the required number of impartial jury members. The motion was granted and jury selection for the new location trial began this week.

In an effort to put an end to the hot car deaths of young children, KidsandCars.org introduced the Hot Cars Act of 2016. The Act has received support from 15 of the nation’s leading public health, consumer, and safety organizations, along with parents who have lost children to hot car deaths, and experts in neuroscience.

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According to the press release put out by KidsandCars.org:

“The HOT CARS Act would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a final rule within two years for a reminder system to alert the drive if a child is left unattended in a vehicle.”

Under the Hot Cars Act, all new vehicles would be required to have some type of notification to let drivers know that their child is in the back seat when they are getting out. CNN reported that General Motors became the first company to take action on the topic when they announced that they would install a warning tone and reminder message in the speedometer of all 2017 Acadias that says “Look in Rear Seat.” They plan to introduce the feature on other four-door GM models in the future.

Hot Car Fatalities
Hot Car Fatalities 1990 - 2015 (September) [Image by KidsandCars.org]

With the wide-ranging support, it seems likely that the Hot Cars Act of 2016 will pass and become legislation. Overworked and stressed-out parents are running on fumes, putting more and more kids at risk of being forgotten in the vehicle. Car manufacturers have the opportunity to help prevent these deaths that seem to be happening alarmingly frequently. Some type of solution is needed to stop hot car deaths, and a notification from the vehicle as parents exit the car is a good place to start.

Tell us — do you think a notification when getting out of the vehicle will help prevent these hot car deaths?

[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]