It can happen to any one of us, though no parents want to think it will happen to them. There are many contributing factors (a change in schedule, sleep deprivation, stress – anything that compromises mental faculties and memory), but the outcome is the same: a child forgotten, left in a car on a summer day. Unfortunately, this can lead to the untimely deaths of children, such as this girl from Moorhead, MN on June 11th of this year.
According to KidsandCars.org, an average of 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. In May of this year, that average nearly doubled with 7 children dying from heatstroke in hot cars in 4 states in 16-day period.
Here is a list of simple things you can do to avoid this tragedy:
Be mindful – Concentrate on driving and eliminating distractions such as cell phone use, including texting. With your mind on the road, you’ll be cognizant and in the moment when you park, and much less likely to be distracted by other things. Also, if you’re not on the phone while driving, you won’t be immersed in a phone conversation when you park, which can cause you to forget about a quiet or sleeping child in the backseat.
Use your cell to your advantage – Flip the script and use your phone as a reminder tool, setting an alarm for the time you should be dropping your child off at daycare. This tactic works well against the most typical scenario: a change in schedule leads the parent to report to work right away, leaving their child in a workplace parking lot. You can also ask your caregiver to give you a call either on your cellphone or on a work phone if they haven’t received your child at the expected time.
Replacement trigger – Keep either a stuffed animal or other toy in your child’s car seat when they are not in it. When putting your child into his/her chair, place the item in the front passenger seat. This will serve as a visual cue activating you to check the backseat before leaving the vehicle.
Backseat reminder – Similarly, placing your purse/wallet in the backseat can work the same way and helps even when a schedule has changed. A two-pronged approach is to place the diaper bag in the front seat.
Lastly, remember that children aren’t the only ones suffering from being left in cars; pets also experience the same fate. Never leave a pet in your car, especially on a hot day. Rolling down the window does not make it okay. Not only do animals have a higher overall body temperature than us, they also have a layer of fur, causing them to experience temperatures differently than we do. What may feel like an ok temperate to you could be very hot to a dog or cat and interior temperatures in your vehicle can rise rapidly on hot summer days – window cracked or not.