Every summer we hear the stories of children who are accidentally left in vehicles by their parents or caregivers, only to be found dead hours later. Every parent believes that such a tragedy will never happen to them – that they would never forget their sleeping child in the car or that exhaustion so deep will never occur to the point that they don’t realize they never stopped to drop their child off at daycare. Yet year after year we hear stories of a too-tired parent who left their little one in a vehicle on a hot summer day – something that all too frequently ends in tragedy.
We have all read the stories about the parent who was so exhausted that they thought they had already dropped their child off at daycare before heading into work. Or the grandparent who ran to the store, forgetting that their grandchild made the trip with them. On a hot day, this mistake can end in tragedy. So far in 2017, there have been 36 child deaths related to vehicular heatstroke with many of the victims under three years old.
All of these children’s stories are different, but they all end the same way. Some of them are parents who simply went about their morning routine, not realizing they skipped the part where they were supposed to drop their child off at daycare or school. Some parents thought the other parent had retrieved the child from the car, but it was too late before both realized that neither one had. Sometimes curious children will sneak into an open vehicle without their parent’s knowledge, lock themselves in, and perish before a loved one can find them.
In the past 20 years, over 700 children have died from vehicular heatstroke. 87 percent of those children are under the age of three. When a child is left in a hot vehicle, the temperature inside the car can increase by 40 degrees in a matter of 15 minutes. Since young children have a difficult time regulating their core temperature, they quickly succumb to heat stroke when their bodies can no longer handle the increased temperature.
Although no parent thinks that something like this will happen to them, it happens all too often. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you never leave your child in the car no matter how exhausted you may be.
Leave it Behind You
Every time you get in the car, put something in the backseat that you HAVE to take out when you get out of your car: your purse, your phone, your briefcase, your
jacket, or even your keys if you have a push button start. This way you will undoubtedly see your sleeping child in the backseat and remember that they are there
Lock the Doors
Whenever you park your car, even if it’s in your driveway or garage, be sure to lock the doors. Curious little ones often like to pretend they’re driving or think that the car is a fun place to play, inadvertently locking themselves inside. On a hot day, even in a garage, this can prove to be detrimental like it was for this family. It may also be important to talk to your children about why a car is not a place to play (if they are old enough), so they know the dangers of being stuck inside.
Make a Plan
If you are a working parent dropping your child at daycare, make a plan with the daycare provider to call you within a certain time if your child doesn’t show up
without prior notification. This helps to ensure that your child is accounted for by several different people, thereby making it less likely that he or she will be
forgotten in the car without any accountability.
Set an Alarm
Another way to give a secondary form of accountability is to set an alarm on your phone for a few minutes after you arrive to work. When your alarm goes off it will signal a reminder for you to retrace your steps that morning and ensure that your child is in fact in the place they are supposed to be. If you aren’t sure, walk out to your car to double check or call your daycare provider.
No parent ever dreams that their child will be a victim of vehicular heat stroke. These deaths do not happen out of negligence, but rather because a parent or care taker often gets consumed with so many other things that they simply forget that their child is in the backseat. Take preventative measures whenever you can so that your child doesn’t fall victim to heat-related car seat death.