“Just because you can have kids does not mean you should!”
“What’s next, a “trick” that can help you remember your toddler in the bathtub? Parenting isn’t about “tricks.” It’s about putting the needs of your child or children above yours. Plain and simple.”
“What type of person would let this happen?”
These are just a few of the types of comments left on new reports about children who have died after being left in a hot car. It can be easy to sit in judgment of parents who have made this fatal mistake, but the danger in this type of thinking is the flawed assumption that “This will never happen to me!”
Years ago, when I was still a teenager, I traveled to a family reunion in mid-August in the northeast. I was excited to meet my aunt’s new baby–only three months old. My aunt was driving from the southwest across country for this family gathering. My aunt arrived mid-afternoon. After hugs and kisses to all the family members, people chatting and catching up, about 20 minutes had gone by. I couldn’t stand the suspense and asked my aunt, “Who did you get to watch the baby?” Her face turned white as she gasped in disbelief. She raced downstairs out to the car and retrieved a very red-faced, screaming, furious baby who thankfully was alive. I still shudder to this day to think what could have happened that day if I had just assumed that she decided to not bring along the baby. My aunt is an very intelligent, caring, responsible woman whose exhaustion from driving across country could have caused a fatal mistake.
In the in-depth article Fatal Distraction in the Washington Post, author Gene Weingarten reports, “The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate.” Kidsandcars.org reports, “It can happen to anybody, even the most loving and attentive parents. It has happened to teachers, a pediatrician, dentist, postal clerk, social worker, police officer, nurse, clergyman, electrician, accountant, soldier, assistant principal and even a rocket scientist.” Further research shows even a hospital CEO and an attorney have left their children in hot cars with devastating results.
So many of these tragedies occur due to the danger in thinking, “This will never happen to me! I’m a good parent!”
I recently spoke to a father with two children, age 1 and 3. His little one is still getting up multiple times throughout the night. “My wife and I are like walking zombies,” he laments. Most parents of small children can relate. “Fatigue is a killer issue for memory,” said MIT neuroscience professor John Gabrieli. Other factors that can lead to a responsible parent forgetting a child in a car include anxiety, distraction, stress, hormone changes, and changes in routine. When my own children were little, my husband and I would take them for a drive to soothe them to sleep. A quiet baby, an exhausted parent, and the tendency to go on “auto pilot” when driving are the ingredients for disaster.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Since 1998, over 600 fatalities have been recorded. Heatstroke deaths have been recorded in 11 months of the year in nearly all 50 states, although most deaths happen in July and August. Unfortunately, Florida ranks second in the number of heatstroke deaths that have occurred.
In 10 minutes, a car can heat up by 20 degrees F.
Heatstroke can occur even when the outside temperature is in the 50s.
A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body.
A child dies when his/her body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
Use reminders to help. Place your left shoe, cell phone, purse, employee ID, work keys or other item in the back seat that will cause you to open the rear door.
Look before you lock. Get into the habit of always opening the rear door and looking into the backseat before locking the car.
Phone a friend. If you are not the usual person transporting the child, arrange to have that person call you to make sure the baby is at the destination safely. Have an arrangement with your child’s daycare provider to call if your child does not arrive at the usual time.
Use a timer. For very basic technology users, set a timer on your phone with the approximate arrival time set. When the alarm goes off, make sure your child is safely out of the car. If you have been delayed, reset the alarm.
Use location based technology. For more advanced technology users, you can also use location based technology to send a text message to someone when you arrive at a childcare or babysitter’s. In addition, using location based technology, you can customize a reminder when you arrive to your selected destination (like work) to alert you, “Did you remember the baby?”
D-Ring to keys-Inspired by Sophie’s KISS, use a D-ring clip with a stuffed animal attached through the toy’s tag. When not using the car seat, clip the D-ring and stuffed animal to the car seat strap. After buckling up your child, remove the D-ring and toy from the strap and attach it to your keys. The stuffed animal, too big to shove in your pocket or purse, will serve as a reminder to get baby out of the car.
EZ Baby Saver-A fifth grade student created a simple invention to help prevent parents and caregivers from unintentionally leaving a baby in the car. He provides step-by-step instructions on how to create the EZ Baby Saver using just rubber bands and duct tape.
Apps Designed to Avoid Heatstroke Tragedy
Precious Cargo App-$0.99. Compatibility: Android 2.2 and up. iOS version coming soon. Precious Cargo was created to prevent the senseless deaths of innocent children. The App uses the Bluetooth function in the users vehicle. Once paired with the vehicle’s Bluetooth, the alarm with ask if you are traveling with Precious Cargo each time you start your vehicle (children, pets, rerishable items). The App then sends you an alert whenever the vehicle is turned off to remind you about you Precious Cargo. This is to ensure you that you have left nothing behind. The App can also be set manually for those who do not have a Bluetooth equipped vehicle.
Baby Reminder App-Free. Compatibility: Requires iOS 4.2 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Baby Reminder app reminds you not to forget your baby in the car. Simply set the days and time intervals in which you usually drive your children. Baby Reminder will automatically monitor and determine when you are driving and when not. An alert reminding you not to forget your baby in the car will be sent shortly after you arrive at your destination.
ChildMinder Elite Pad
The Elite Pad is placed between cushions or under the cushion of the child safety seat. Once the child is seated in the safety seat, the Elite Pad System passively monitors your child in his/her safety seat. Installation takes less than three minutes. The Elite Pad System is activated when a child is seated in the child safety seat. An alarm sounds in six seconds after a parent or caregiver walks more than fifteen (15) feet from a vehicle while the child remains seated in the child safety seat.
The ChildMinder system reminds drivers with an alarm 8 seconds after the parent or caregiver has moved more than 15 feet from the child in his/her safety seat. No removal of safety seat harness straps required for installation. Replace your child’s safety seat chest harness clip with the ChildMinder’s New SoftClip and place the key ring alarm unit on your automotive key ring.
iAlert Car Seat
A car seat that communicates with your smartphone. Quick and Easy set-up with IAlert app for IOS and most Android smartphones. Mobile-synched car seat designed to recognize potentially unsafe conditions and alert parents on their smartphone. Alerts if child is left unattended, out of their seat while driving, reminders to check the seat buckle, monitors the ambient temperature, assists in achieving the correct angle position when installing seat and allows for set up of emergency contacts.
- A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your doors and trunks – even in your driveway. And keep your keys and key fobs out of the reach of kids.
- C: Create reminders. Place something you’ll need at your next stop – like a briefcase or cell phone – next to the child safety seat. It may seem simple, but can be a helpful reminder on a chaotic day.
- T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations.
“This will never happen to me!”
Please take precautions with your babies and young children in these hot summer months in Florida. Implementing any of the suggestions above can prevent a devastating, life-altering tragedy that could happen to any of us.
*Due diligence should always be taken when caring for your children. Never solely rely on an outside source to prevent heatstroke in children.