How many of us have left a child alone in a car? Some people think, “I just need a minute to run in and do something.” But that minute often takes more than 60 seconds. I know it takes time to buckle a child into a car seat just to turn around and unbuckle them a few minutes later. My daughter-in-law is very picky (as she should be) about making sure the seat, buckles, and straps are all just right and that takes time. But she also knows it’s very important to get the child in and out each and every time and to do so in a safe manner.
WebMD states that more than 600 U.S. children have died from being left alone in a hot car. Christopher McStay, MD, an emergency room doctor and assistant professor of emergency medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, states, “It is never OK to leave children or pets in a car – even with the windows down. It is an absolute no-no.” Christopher Haines, DO, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, put things into perspective by saying, “On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70 percent of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes.”
NoHeatStroke.org sums up the seriousness of this topic with a few facts:
- 53% – child “forgotten” by caregiver (336 Children)
- 29% – child playing in unattended vehicle (186)
- 17% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult (110)
- 1% – circumstances unknown (4)
(Information based on 636 child vehicular heat stroke deaths for a 17 year period)
Don’t think for a moment that it’s not your business if you see a child or animal left in a hot car. I’ve personally never seen a child left in a hot car, but if I had, I would have taken action. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises you to call 9-1-1 immediately if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle. Also, if the child is in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible.
It is heartbreaking to hear about parents that have made this mistake. Like the Austin, Texas father who was going to drop his child off but went into “auto pilot” as he made his way to work. He didn’t realize that he had left his daughter in her car seat until lunchtime when he met up with his wife. Unfortunately, the child passed away. Or the Phoenix, Arizona father whose toddler died after he left him inside a hot car following a round of heavy drinking.
Here are some tips to keep your child safe and avoid these unfortunate accidents:
- Don’t leave the keys to a vehicle within reach of a child.
- When leaving your vehicle, lock your doors and trunk so your child cannot crawl in and get trapped.
- Invest in technology that sounds an alarm if a child is left in their seat when the door shuts.
- Create an accountability system with your spouse, partner, friend, or family member. Question who is responsible for taking the child with them and remind them of this duty repeatedly.
And don’t forget about your pets. Animals are just as susceptible as children to injuries caused by heat. PETA states that animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heat stroke in just 15 minutes. Dogs and cats don’t sweat like humans. Dogs stay cool by panting and releasing heat through their paw pads, and cats sweat only through their paws. The best option is to just leave your animal at home when you run errands. If you see an animal in distress in a car, you should ALWAYS call 9-1-1 or Animal Control for help.
Have you implemented any creative ways to remind yourself of your child in the backseat? Share your ideas in the comments section below so everyone can stay safe in the summer heat!