We’ve all done it. At one point or another, we have all absent-mindedly left important things in the car and forget them until hours later when something strikes our memory about the object. But what if the “important thing” you left in your car was your child? It is unimaginable, but it happens multiple times each year.
According to www.kidsandcars.org which is a website dedicated to child safety specifically in regards to vehicles, as of 07/10/2013, there have already been 21 children who have died from a heatstroke when they were forgotten in a hot car. They have gathered much data and report that the average number of child fatalities due to hyperthermia from being left in a vehicle per year (since 1998) is 38. That is one child dying in a hot car every 9 days.
A child should never be left in a vehicle for any reason. Although it can be tempting to leave the baby in the car for just a moment while you run an errand, or to want to avoid waking your sleeping toddler, leaving a child in the car for any amount of time is highly dangerous. Since a child’s body temperature rises significantly faster than an adults, leaving the windows cracked is not enough to keep your child safe. You may think that you would never knowingly leave your baby in the car for any amount of time, but even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside the car can rise well above 100 degrees, claiming the child’s life faster than you may think. According to www.kidsandcars.org, over 11% of hyperthermia fatalities in children occurred because the child was knowingly left in the car.
The more common reason that children are left in the vehicle is because a responsible parent, who loves and cares deeply for their child, genuinely forgot that their child was in the car. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that you could never forget your child in the car. If your typical routine gets scrambled and your child is asleep in the back (particularly infants who are in rear-facing car seats), it may slip your mind easier than you think. Most parents hear of these stories and think that they could never leave their baby in the car, but this happens to the most responsible and loving parents. It has happened to a pediatrician, a police office, a social worker, and the list goes on. No one should think they are incapable of forgetting their child.
Since there is currently no technology available to alert parents that their child is still in the vehicle, there are some other practical ways that can save your child’s life. Again, please consider using one (or all!) of these ideas because if a simple and seemingly silly habit may keep your child alive, then it is worth it!
- Put an important item in the floor of the back seat, such as your purse, briefcase, or cell phone (putting your cell phone in the back also decreases the temptation to use your cell phone while driving!)
- “Look Before You Lock” is a campaign that encourages parents to open the back door of your vehicle every time you park your car. This will eventually become routine and you will check your backseat out of habit, which will eliminate the risk of leaving your baby in the car.
- Put a large stuffed animal in the car seat when it is empty. When you put your baby in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to the front, passenger seat. Each time you take your baby out of the car seat, place the stuffed animal back into the car seat. This will serve as a reminder from the front seat as to when your baby is in the car and when he is not.
- Have your child’s babysitter call you on the days that you have not dropped off your baby and not called to cancel.
It is our job as parents to do everything we can to protect our children. Find something, or multiple things, that work for you and your family to prevent leaving your child in the car. And never leave your child in the car, not even for a minute!
For a great informational article on the life-threatening dangers of hyperthermia caused from being in a hot car, as well as information on the psychological circumstances that can lead to a responsible parent forgetting their child in the car, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/27/AR2009022701549.html WARNING: This article contains graphic content which may be extremely difficult to read and taxing on emotions.