DUNCANVILLE, Texas (NBC News/KXAN) — Released body cam video from last week shows the moment a police officer in Duncanville, Texas, in Dallas County, broke a car window to get to a child.
Officers say they found the one-year-old crying, sweating and covered in vomit.
The baby was immediately placed into an air-conditioned squad car until medics arrived. A guardian of the child was contacted and officers say an investigation is ongoing.
There’s no word on how long the child was left inside the vehicle. While this Texas child was thankfully safe, many have not been so lucky.
Hot car deaths in Texas
According to the National Safety Council, more children have died in heat-related vehicle deaths. Since 1998, they say, an average of 39 children have died each year — but recently, there have been more.
There were 53 child hot-car deaths in 2018 and 52 in 2019.
KXAN Meteorologist David Yeomans says when air temperatures reach 100°, temperatures inside cars rise rapidly once the vehicle is turned off:
- After 10 minutes: 119°
- After 20 minutes: 129°
- After 30 minutes: 134°
- After 1+ hour: 145° — just shy of hot coffee
Experts suggest a variety of ways to prevent this from happening — an incident that can happen more easily than most would expect, scientists say.
Dr. David Diamond told NBC News in 2017 that most people believe it could never happen to them, but that the phenomenon can happen in all brains.
“Any person is capable of forgetting a child in a car,” Diamond explained.
The doctor says all people experience instances when you plan to do something in the future and then forget to complete that plan — it works relatively the same way, he says.
The phenomenon occurs within the brain center, the basal ganglia, which operates subconsciously, and the hippocampus, which operates conscious information. Diamond says the hippocampus works to plan future activities, while the basal ganglia works in the background, storing abilities like remembering how to ride a bicycle. The basal ganglia, Diamond says, allows you to go on “autopilot.”
These two systems can compete for your attention, allowing sometimes tragic results.
“In the case of you driving home, your basal ganglia wants to get you from Point A to Point B to the point it can suppress your hippocampus. [People] say you can forget to stop at the store, but you don’t forget your child is in the car,” said Diamond. “I get that feeling completely. I get that argument, but you can’t argue with brain function.”
The breaking of routine can also trigger an incident, he says.
“When you drive home and don’t normally take a child to daycare, when you have a habit and you are normally driving home from work — and in those subsets or maybe none at all take a child home — well, what happens in all these cases, the parent goes into autopilot mode, which is typically from home to work. It’s in that subset of cases the basal ganglia is taking you on a route that does not include a child,” Diamond said.
Tips to avoid leaving a child in a car include leaving one shoe in the backseat of the car as a reminder — or leaving a child’s belonging on the front seat.
- Putting a child car seat in the center of the backseat, instead of behind the driver’s seat, so it can be seen in the rearview mirror
- Be extra aware when your routine changes and your child is involved
- Discuss the topic of child car deaths with people who drive your child anywhere
- Look before you lock — making checking backseats a habit before walking away from your car
If you ever see a child in a car alone, you should always call 911.