A Houston-area mother reflects on how her 3-year-old son died, after spending over 10 hours inside of a hot vehicle nearly 8 years ago. The deaths of four children in hot cars in recent days have almost surpassed the total for all of last year, with Texas leading the nation in these tragedies.
Listen: Raising Awareness of Kids in Hot Cars 00:00 / 06:22
Courtesy: Dee Dee Estis
Dee Dee Estis lost her 3-year-old son, Christian, after his grandmother mistakenly forgot to drop him off at daycare.
Texas leads the nation in heatstroke-related deaths of children in cars by a large margin with 106 fatalities from 1991 to 2015. Janette Fennell is founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, a national child safety nonprofit based in Philadelphia. She says those numbers began drastically rising in the 1990s when laws were passed requiring young children be placed in the back seat to avoid injuries from airbags. “Out of sight, out of mind,” says Fennell. “We further are keeping our kids safer by having them rear-facing. And if you’re the driver of a vehicle, you can’t tell if there’s a baby in that car seat or not — because they’re in their little cacoon, they fall asleep, you’re probably sleep-deprived and it’s a real recipe for disaster.” Her organization spearheaded the National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention & Awareness Day on July 31. Fannell adds that automotive technology should be developed to alert drivers of children inside vehicles. Forecasters say the temperature inside a parked car on a 90-degree day will reach 119 degrees in 20 minutes and 133 degrees after one hour. Meanwhile, the recent deaths of four children in hot cars in Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas have brought the number across the U.S. this year to at least 23, nearly matching the total for all of last year. These deaths have prompted a Houston-area mother to warn parents that it can happen to anyone. Dee Dee Estis lost her 3-year-old son, Christian, after his grandmother mistakenly forgot to drop him off at daycare. He died of hyperthermia, still in his car seat, after 10 hours inside of a hot vehicle. Estis recently spoke to News 88.7’s Eddie Robinson about that tragic day, August 13, 2008.
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Prevention/ Safety Tips From KidsInCars.org:
- Create a reminder to check the back seat.
- Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop‐off. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of their whereabouts. If your child will not be attending daycare as scheduled, it is the parent’s responsibility to call and inform the childcare provider. If your child does not show up as scheduled; and they have not received a call from the parent, the childcare provider pledges to contact you immediately to ensure the safety of your child. (this is very similar to the ‘absence‐line’ used by most elementary, middle and high schools)
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.
- Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
- Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
- Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur.
- Use drive‐thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.) and pay for gas at the pump.