Stories like these give me chills (Baby dies, toddler hospitalized after being left in cars/Father Leaves Toddler in Hot Car). Before I became a parent, I’d instantly blame the parents.
How can this happen?! Well, sometimes it is shitty parenting. However, most of the time, it’s because an exhausted parent was up all night with a sick child and is rushing to work. Or it happens because one parent doesn’t usually drop the kids off at daycare and when that child falls asleep in his car seat, you forget he’s even there.
This country has become so rushed that parents are exhausted and always on-the-go. This really could happen to anyone. Instead of placing blame or shaking your head, articles like this should make you sit up and take stock of your daily routine to see where the risks lie and what you can do to prevent a tragedy like this from happening to your family.
First of all, never intentionally leave your child in a car unattended, not even for a few minutes. (I’m assuming those of you who are reading this, wouldn’t, but it has to be said.) Aside from a car not being a safe place for a child, it doesn’t take long for temperatures to become lethal in a parked car. Experts say that a the temperature in a car can rise from 80 to over 120 degrees in just 60 minutes and temperatures can become lethal in just 10 minutes.
HOW FAST CAN A TEMPERATURE RISE IN A CAR?
This is an important message all year round — not just summertime. As you can see, the temperature can still become dangerous. According to experts, it takes only 20 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 100 degrees on a 70-degree day.
So how fast does the temperature rise in a parked car? Here’s a breakdown of the average elapsed time and temperature increase.
- 10 minutes – +19 deg F
- 20 minutes – +29 deg F
- 30 minutes – +34 deg F
- 60 minutes – +43 deg F
- 1 to 2 hours – +45-50 deg F
Car-related deaths due to hyperthermia are not rare.
- Total number of U.S. car-related hyperthermia deaths of children left in cars in 2011 (this doesn’t take into account the number of children who had to be hospitalized or were rescued before it was too late): 33
- Total number of U.S. hyperthermia deaths of children left in cars since 1998: 537
- Average number of U.S. child hyperthermia fatalities per year since 1998: 38
THE STAGGERING TRUTH: HOW THIS HAPPENS
Still not sitting up and paying attention or think this can’t happen to you? Check out these shocking statistics. (Source)
An examination of media reports about child vehicular hyperthermia deaths for a thirteen year period (1998 through 2011) shows the following circumstances (source). It’s unfortunate, but 82% of these instances were accidents.
- 52% – child “forgotten” by caregiver
- 30% – child playing in unattended vehicle
- 17% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult
- 1% – circumstances unknown
DON’T FORGET YOUR FURBABIES
This applies to dogs too!
Now that I have your attention, here are some tips to prevent this from happening to you (compiled from around the web).
- 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.
- Seat your younger (or quieter) child behind the front passenger seat, where he’s most likely to catch your eye.
- 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.
- Ask your child’s babysitter or daycare provider to always call you immediately 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 child back there.
- Never assume someone else — a spouse, an older child — has taken a young kid out of her seat. Such miscommunication has led to more than a few hot-car deaths.
- Invest in a device to help you remember small passengers. The Cars-N-Kids monitor plays a lullabye when the car stops and a child is in the seat ($29.95). The ChildMinder System sounds an alarm if you walk away and leave your child in the seat ($69.95).
- There are aps that will send you alerts, such as Baby Reminder.
- Put visual cues in your office and home. Static-cling decals reminding you to check the car seat are available at Emmasinspirations.com and Kidsandcars.org.
- Make sure that your children understand that your vehicle is not a place to play. Keep vehicle doors and trunks locked, even when you are at home. Keep your keys out of your child’s reach. If your child is missing, check your pool first and then check your vehicle, including the trunk, immediately to see if he or she is in it.
- If you see a child that has been left unattended in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately and stay with the child until help arrives. If the child looks unresponsive, break the window to get her out.
Have a tip? Leave it in a comment and I’ll add it to the list.