Avoiding Tragic Hot-Car Deaths

You can count on it. As spring turns to summer and temperatures outside start climbing, a child will die after being left in a hot car.

It happened recently in Dallas. A mother arrived at work, parked her car, grabbed her purse, locked the car and went into her workplace. She didn't see her baby asleep in the backseat.

When officers arrived about 6 hours later, they said she seemed truly surprised when they confronted her. She asked if her husband was ok or if something had happened to her baby at daycare. She was sure she had delivered her baby to daycare that morning up until the moment she was told her baby had died in her car.

Variations of this story play out across the country every year and children die because they are either intentionally or accidently left in a hot car.

Many people are shocked when they hear or read about something like this happening especially when a parent or caregiver simply forgot the child was with them or thought they had left the child with someone else. They wonder how could that possibly happen?

While there is no excuse for negligence, experts say that parents who are otherwise loving and attentive to their kids can forget that their child is in the car when they are super-focused on getting somewhere, distracted while driving, under tremendous strain or when taking their child to daycare is not part of their daily routine.

Another factor that may contribute to a parent's forgetfulness is rear-facing car seats. Originally intended to save lives, when the car seat is placed behind the drivers seat a parent may miss the visual cue of a child when glancing in the rear-view mirror. Children are usually pretty noisy when they are in the car, unless they fall asleep. The silence doesnt offer the sound cue that someone else is in the car.

Then there are the parents or caregivers who deliberately leave their child in the car when they run an errand. They often think that its easier and faster to leave them there, particularly if their child is asleep, get what they came for and get back to the car. They may even crack a window thinking that's enough to keep the car from getting too hot. It's not.

Heat coming into the car from a window is absorbed by the interior and the glass acts as an insulator. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 'a locked car sitting in the summer sun quickly turns into an oven,' and 'temperatures can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes, to 125 degrees in 6-8 minutes.'

But it doesn't have to be boiling outside for a car to heat up to a life threatening temperature; it just takes a few minutes longer.

While you may think you could never forget that your child is in the car it's still an excellent idea to get in the habit of setting visual cues as well as considering some of the new technology driven gadgets that can give you that extra peace of mind.

- First and foremost, always put your cell phone, purse, or briefcase, and anything else you'll need that day, on the floor of the backseat. When you retrieve it at the end of the ride, you'll notice your child.

- Keep a teddy bear or other stuffed animal in the car seat when it's empty. When you put your child in the seat, move the animal to the front passenger seat, to remind you that your baby's on board.

- Put the car seat on the passenger side of the back seat.

- Ask your child's babysitter or daycare provider to always phone you promptly if your child isn't dropped off as scheduled.

- Make a habit of always opening the back door of your car after you park, to check that there's no kid back there.

- Never assume someone else, such as a spouse or an older child, has taken a young kid out of her seat. Such miscommunication has led to more than a few hot-car deaths.

- Check online about child safety gadgets that can warn parents when theyve left a child in a car. There are even phone apps that will send you an alert.  

- Put visual cues in your office and home. There are decals you can buy (or make yourself) that remind you to check the car seat.

- Never leave your child unattended in a car. Weather isn't the only factor when it comes to keeping your child safe from a dangerous outcome. A child left unattended in a parked car is vulnerable and easy prey for someone intent on doing harm.

If you see a child left unattended in a car- call 9-1-1. Don't worry about offending someone or anything other than making sure that the child is rescued - whether it's hot or not.

These types of articles and warnings go out every summer and yet children still die from being left in parked cars. More than any generation before, we are living in a multi-task, fast paced and distracting world. A lot of us are a little more forgetful than we used to be and anything you can do to slow yourself down and focus on your little one in the back seat of the car is a thing worth doing.

Source: Melissa Balmain, http://www.parenting.com/article/tragedy-in-the-backseat-hot-car-deaths

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