Grieving father works to prevent child deaths in hot cars

Eighteen times in the U.S. this year, including twice in our area, a child has died after being left in a hot car.

At least 44 children died last year after being left in unattended vehicles.

July 31 is National Heatstroke Prevention day, with the focus this year on stopping deaths of children left in unattended vehicles.

For many parents, it's an act that seems unimaginable.

"I just can't see it. I can't see walking away from my car and not realizing my child was in there," said Candace Fiorini of Carolina Forest.

But it does happen, to people like Richie Gray.

He's the Hartsville man charged with unlawful neglect after leaving his 13-month old child in his car all day outside his workplace.

He says he now wants to help other parents learn from his mistake.

Gray is promoting an online petition sponsored by

It asks the federal government to fund research and development on new technology.

The group points out that cars today beep when the headlights are left on or seat belts are unbuckled.

"It would really be a very simple solution to create another alert to let us know if a child was left behind," said Amber Rollins, director and volunteer manager for

The petition needs 100,000 signatures by August 12 to force a White House response.

Rollins suggests parents could also put something in their back seat, like a cell phone or purse, that they know they'll need all day, to force them to check back there.

She says parents shouldn't assume they would never forget a child in a car.

"We work very closely with families that this has happened to and they're wonderful, doting parents," said Rollins.

Rollins says in almost every case, the hot car deaths happen to parents who have had a lack of sleep or a change in routine

She says that can happen to anyone.

Still, some people say leaving a child behind is more than just an accident.

"I believe whether it happens to you or your child, it's a form of neglect. You neglect yourself or you neglect your child," said Joe McRoberts of Carolina Forest.