From the Clocktower – Summer: The perfect time for preventable tragedies.

By Kathi Bliss



When you grow up in Texas, there are certain things you learn to recognize as absolute facts. They start as theories, and then you realize that the statistics back up the theories, and the theories become absolutes.

For instance, you can’t find a parking spot within three blocks of a football stadium after 6:30 p.m. on any given Friday night between August and November.

Everyone has a favorite brisket, and no one will ever change their mind about that brisket.

Everyone drinks Lone Star beer, and no one actually knows why.

And kids are going to die in locked cars in the summertime.

It’s that last fact that causes the gears in my mind to grind to a halt. But it is, as all the others, a statistical certainty.

In fact, according to a report released this week by San Antonio’s KSAT12, this year, Texas leads the nation in hot car deaths – by a couple of touchdowns. There have been 15 documented hot-car deaths in the United States this year. Texans are responsible for seven of them. Florida comes in second place… with two. Two. Texas has SEVEN.

I research it every year. I write about it every year. And after 15 years of researching and writing about it, I still don’t understand it. I don’t know that I ever will.

Last month, a Weatherford mother found her two children playing in the car, and locked them in the car to “teach them a lesson.” She then chose to smoke marijuana and take a nap for a few hours, during which time, her children cooked to death in the car. And my question there is, “if you don’t want your children playing in the car, why don’t you lock the doors?”

Just this weekend, a Ft. Worth toddler died after climbing into a disabled car in his yard, and a Houston infant died after his father dropped two older siblings off at daycare, but forgot about the 7-month-old in the back seat.

How does this happen? I really don’t understand how this happens.

How have we, as a society, become so distracted, that we forget while we’re commuting that we have children in the car? We scream it from the rooftops. We talk about it almost every day, from April to October. But still, we leave children in the car, day after day, to bake to death under the Texas sun.

Why? What are we thinking about, that we’ve put ahead of thinking about our children? What could possibly be more important than that?

I’ll say the same thing I’ve said for the last 15 years. I’m not a parent. I can’t even IMAGINE how horrifying it must be to be in one of these situations, and as such, I can only rely on my own experience. I’ve left my Yeti tumbler in the car, more than once. I notice it inside of 10 minutes, in most cases. Never gone more than a half-hour without realizing I don’t have my TUMBLER. I can’t begin to put my head around leaving a CHILD in the car for several hours. What could be the distraction? What could ever be more important than a kid? I really just don’t understand. How does one “forget” that their child was in the car? And on average, it happens 37 times, every year (those statistics reflect 1998 – the present).

That might not seem like many. After all, approximately 710 kids die every year from accidental drowning. Statistically speaking, hot-car deaths are low on the list of “unintentional deaths.”

But, even so. There is nothing so stupid, nothing so needless, as the death of a child who baked to death in a hot car. And for Texas to be responsible for half of those deaths nationwide, so far this year? That’s flat inexcusable.

Look, y’all. This is Texas. We know it’s hot. We know that our flip-flops are going to melt into the asphalt if we walk across the parking lot too slowly (verifiable fact). We know that we’re going to get second-degree burns for grabbing our steering wheels, or sitting in short shorts on our leather seats in July (also a verifiable fact).

So I wish someone would please explain to me, with all the information we have available, why we would leave car doors unlocked, offering kids an opportunity to play inside them, or even worse, leave our kids inside our cars while we run errands. Or, worse still, how we can load a kid in our car in the morning, and “not remember” that we didn’t drop them at day care, or that we didn’t unload them when we got where we were going.

Whatever your schedule for the day holds…. No matter how much you want to check your Instagram…. How could there POSSIBLY be anything more important than the toddler in your back seat?



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