It seems that every year as the weather starts to get warmer we are inevitably hearing about tragic circumstances where children are dying after being forgotten in hot cars. Last year alone 42 children died after being left in hot cars, and already this year 15 children have lost their lives, according to data collected by NoHeatStroke.org. Almost 800 children have lost their lives in the past two decades as a result of being left in hot cars.
While it is so difficult to fathom how anyone could forget their child or child in their care for so long in a hot car, it does happen. These are tragic accidents that often occur after a family sees a change in routine, or perhaps due to increased stress and lack of sleep. Parents don't choose to forget their child, but sadly we're seeing this happen every year.
There are however some tips parents and caregivers can follow to ensure they don't leave their child in a car.
1. Routine, Routine, Routine
Changes in routine are often blamed when a child is left in a hot car. Perhaps one parent is usually responsible for taking a child to daycare or school, but the schedule suddenly changes and the other parent needs to take over. Experts suggest being extra alert to routine changes to help prevent leaving your child in a hot car.
If someone isn't used to having a child with them in the morning, it could become possible they will forget the child is in their car. So many of us operate almost on autopilot in the mornings that it becomes hard to adjust to changes in routine.
If you have a routine change make sure you discuss if often so everyone in the house is aware of the change. Also, you ensure your doors are locked before you leave your home everyday, the same routine should be implemented with the car by checking all windows to ensure that nothing or nobody has been left behind. Also if a new drop off routine is in place, have regular check ins to ensure that the child made it to their destination safely.
2. Put Something In The Back Seat
Regularly putting something in the back seat with your child will serve as a reminder to always be checking back there. A briefcase, or school bag or cell phone or even a shoe are all items that could be placed in the back seat with your child to act as small reminders to always check behind you. The idea is to place something that is essential to your daily tasks beside your child to serve as a reminder.
Critics will suggest that none of those items are as important as a child, which is true, but they are all items that, if forgotten, will be retrieved quickly because they will be needed by the parent or caregiver.
3. Stuffies Ride Shotgun
Many experts suggest that placing an item in the passenger seat that reminds you of your child is a great way to be reminded of that child in the back seat. Oftentimes it's difficult to see a child in the back seat, especially with younger children in rear facing seats, so the item serves as a gentle reminder.
Many suggest using stuffed toy or a diaper bag or a blanket that your child uses often to serve as the reminder. Some even suggest swapping the stuffed toy with your child so everytime you see the stuffed toy in the passenger seat you are reminded of your child in the back.
4. Make A Plan
One of the most important things you can do to ensure your child is never forgotten in a car is to make a plan. If you drop your child off at a caregiver's at a certain time every day, make sure that caregiver knows to follow up within a set amount of time if your child doesn't arrive.
The same goes for any friends or family members who may transport your child during the day. Having checks in place doesn't make you untrusting of those with your child, it makes it so you can ensure your child always safely makes it to their destination.
5. Never Leave A Child Unattended
Many parents will leave a sleeping child in a car to make a quick run in to a store or shop without realizing that their quick trip could easily turn tragic. 18% of the deaths of children left in hot cars reported by NoHeatStroke.org over a 19 year period were caused by children being intentionally left in hot cars.
A car can increase in temperature by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes according to Family Education, and children's body temperature rises faster than adults. A quick trip to the store could turn in to a longer time away from your child if the store is busy, you run in to someone or you get distracted by how long you've been gone. There is no safe amount of time to leave your child unattended in a car.
6. Put The Car Seat in The Middle
By placing your child's car seat in the middle of the back seat you allow for easier viewing of the seat, which will help you keep an eye on the child as you drive and serve as a reminder they are in the back seat even when they're quiet.
7. There's An App For That
While many people think they will never be the person who leaves their child in a hot car, it is sadly a reality for too many parents. Kars 4 Kids is an app that parents can download that is designed to alert drivers when they leave their cars to remember there is a baby in the backseat.
Waze will also send you a reminder when you reach your destination that you need to remember your child in the back seat. Many of these apps use your car's bluetooth technology to help remind the driver of a child in the back.
There have been many technological advances in helping parents remember their kids in the back seat as well.
The ChildMinder Soft Clip is a device that replaces the safety clip in your child's car seat. An alarm will sound if it senses the child alone after just 8 second.
The Sunshine Baby IRemind also senses when a parent gets out of a car and sends an immediate reminder.
Driver's Little Helper also sends parents a notification if a child is left in a car. If that notification isn't received, it will then scroll through your contacts list sending notices to each contact until the child is removed from the car.
Most importantly, if you happen to see a child left alone in a car, speak up and call 911. Their lives may depend on it.