• 73°

ASK A COP WITH OFC. RICKEY ANTOINE: What to do with children left in car

Glenda from Port Arthur asks: Officer Antoine, thank you for helping us citizens to understand the importance of safe driving with this article. Officer Antoine, just the other day I observed something that didn’t look right but I wasn’t sure if it was illegal. I observed a woman exit her vehicle at the shopping center and leave her three young children in the car. The three children appeared to be between 5 to 10 years of age. The mother was gone approximately 15 to 20 minutes in the store before her return. Knowing me, I had to get out of my vehicle and express to the mother my concern, but she shrugged me off like I was in her business (should have I call 911?) Is this illegal in Texas to leave your children in a running vehicle?

Answer: Good question, Glenda! Thanks for being one to make Port Arthur and Southeast Texas a safer motoring community. Leaving children in cars is very dangerous and concerning in Texas, given the high temperatures along with the humidity. Texas is No. 1 in the U.S.A. in an area we have absolutely no reason to brag: From 1990 to 2017, there were 120 child vehicular heatstroke fatalities in Texas involving children ages 14 and under. A total of 836 children have died from heatstroke across the country after being left in hot cars over the last 17 years, according to the organization, which aims to prevent the numerous ways children are killed by vehicles. Glenda, you had every reason to be concerned about this violation. Under section 22.10 of the Texas Penal Code, entitled “Leaving a Child in a Vehicle,” it is a class C misdemeanor which means fine only, (no jail time can be given as punishment if found guilty in a court of law) to leave a child under the age of 7 in a vehicle for longer than five minutes without the presence in the vehicle of an individual 14 years or older. So with that said, time and age means everything when concerning leaving children unattended in vehicles. If you’re not certain and have a genuine concern for the safety of the children, please by all means contact your local police agency. Glenda, you can’t bother us because as with any call we’d rather be there than do absolutely nothing.

C.C. from Nederland asks: Officer Antoine, the other day I was driving in Port Arthur and several police vehicles had the lanes of travel for my direction blocked. We didn’t really know what to do so we went around the police cars. So of course, we were stopped by an officer who asked us what were we doing and made us turn around and go the opposite way that I need to go. So Officer Antoine, what are we as drivers supposed to do if the road is blocked by police cars and the other side of the street is clear?

Answer: Good question C.C.! Police officers that have an area blocked off with marked police units with flashing lights means all drivers should immediately start to make a U-turn and proceed in the opposite direction, unless you are beckoned by an police officer to proceed. C.C., by driving through police scenes you could have easily compromised the integrity of the crash or crime scene. Too often, motorists become too fixated on what police are doing and who’s being attended to the degree that we have to divert our attention from the scene to attend to a bypasser or bystanders that have absolutely nothing to do with the scene. It’s even illegal in the state of Texas to drive around a police barricade without prior authorization of a police officer. So next time, if police units have your direction of travel blocked, simply make a U-turn when it’s safe and proceed in the opposite direction.

Kasper from Port Arthur asks: Officer Antoine, I love reading your column because at the young age of 88 I still find myself learning something different about driving. I even cut them out and mail them to my son so he can stay up on the driving laws. Officer Antoine, when I drive on Lakeshore Drive by Woodrow Wilson Early College High School, I come across two different traffic devices:
• A flashing red light and
• A stop sign.
Which one are we supposed to obey? The stop sign is first, then there’s the flashing red signal light. I’m confused. Help this 88 years of age driver: Which one are we supposed to obey?

Answer: Good question, Kasper! I can truly understand why the stop sign and red flashing signal in the same area may be a bit confusing. Those of us like you, Kasper, can remember Stilwell Boulevard intersected with Lakeshore, which is no longer the case today. In an effort to raise awareness that the city of Port Arthur installed stop signs, they left the flashing red light to alert motorists to the stop sign. Kasper the action motorists should take by a flashing red signal is to STOP, and the action motorists should take by a stop sign is STOP! So both traffic control devices mean the same: STOP! When you come to a complete stop at the stop sign you may proceed forward when safe.

Join Officer Antoine for Ask A Cop Live on KSAP 96.9 FM, “The Breeze” radio station every Tuesday from 1-2 p.m. Tune in and listen as Officer Antoine discusses in detail the newly released Ask A Cop article that printed in The News. You can also tune in via internet at www.ksapthebreeze.org. Feel free to call in and ask your question live to Officer Antoine at 409-982-0247.

Remember to email your questions to Rickey.Antoine@portarthurtx.gov, or call 409-983-8673 and leave a message or voice mail question, or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 Fourth St., Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public you can Ask A Cop!