Keep Track of the Child in Back
You’ve heard the stories on the news about parents forgetting their babies in their car seats when they leave the car on a warm day, only to return much later to a tragedy. NoHeatStroke.org reported that 851 children have died due to pediatric vehicular heatstroke since 1998. 52 of those deaths occurred in 2019, including 1-year-old twins accidentally left in the car by their father who is a social worker. You might wonder how this can happen or what type of parent would forget their child is with them in the car, but if it can happen to him, it could happen to anyone.
Children dying of pediatric vehicular hyperthermia rarely happened before the 1990s, when airbags were first installed in cars. Airbags do save lives, but if one is activated due to an accident, it could be deadly to a baby or small child in the front seat. Because of this, safety experts recommend that car seats be installed in the back seat. However, in the front seat, a parent can see the baby and is less likely to forget to take them to daycare.
There are lots of reasons a parent can forget their baby or toddler is in the car:
- The baby might be sleeping quietly, and the parent has a lot on his or her mind and forgets the baby is there.
- There’s a change in the schedule, and the parent who doesn’t normally take the baby to daycare forgets the baby is the car.
- A toddler will somehow get in the car without a parent knowing, and fall asleep. The parent can’t forget the toddler is there because they don’t know.
Preventing an Unthinkable Tragedy
There are easy ways to avoid this type of tragedy and ensure your child's safety:
- Set a reminder on your phone, especially if you are taking the child to daycare when it’s not part of your normal routine.
- Buy a car seat monitor that senses a child's weight in the car seat and sounds an alert or alarm when the car is parked. Some cars are equipped with rear seat reminder alerts too.
- Put a teddy bear, diaper bag or something that belongs to your child on top of or next to something you will be taking with you when you leave the car as a reminder.
- Keep something you’ll need for the day like your cell phone, work ID badge, laptop or purse in the back seat next to the car seat.
- Ask your daycare provider to call you if your child is 15 minutes late.
- Instead of putting the car seat behind the driver’s seat, put it behind the passenger’s seat so you have a better shot of seeing the baby.
- Check the car before you leave the house to make sure a toddler didn’t climb in the back seat without you knowing.
- Make “Look Before You Lock” a habit.
Pediatric vehicular hyperthermia is more common than you might think. Awareness and having a plan are important ways to avoid this tragic loss in your family.