HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With the summer season just underway, law enforcement and Child Protective Services are under heightened alert when it comes to the children being left in vehicles during soaring temperatures.
Just a day before the first day of the season, a 5-year-old boy's death in northeast Harris County thrusted that specific child fatality into focus. Since then, authorities have identified the child as Trace Means.
Not only has CPS confirmed that it is investigating the incident, which Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said happened during a mother's rush to put together a birthday party, but it has illustrated the human toll of hot car deaths this year.
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After Monday's incident, there have been five hot car deaths involving children so far in 2022, including three from the greater Houston area, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman told Eyewitness News.
After car crashes, heat stroke is the leading cause of vehicle-related deaths in children under 15, the agency said.
DFPS also issued a reminder about the impact the heat has on younger bodies.
"Heat stroke happens when a child's body is not able to cool itself quickly enough. Cars heat up fast. The temperature can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes, and cracking a window does little to keep things cool once the car is turned off," DFPS said.
The agency suggested habits that adults can build to prevent additional hot car deaths from happening this year:
- Make it a habit for everyone to get out of the car, even if you're only stopping for a moment.
- Always check the back seat before you get out of the car.
- Create reminders for yourself, such as putting your purse or phone in the back seat safely away from your child and keeping the diaper bag in the front seat beside you.
- If someone else drives your child, check-in by phone or text to make sure your child arrives safely.
- Ask your child's caregiver or babysitter to notify you whenever your child arrives more than 10 minutes late.