Here's something terrifying: So far this year alone, 15 kids have died from heatstroke after being left in their parents' cars -- and it's only July. According to KidsandCars.org, on average, 38 children die every year from vehicular heatstroke after being forgotten in cars. Now, you may think you're not the "type" to leave your child in your car, but the scary reality is there is no type. In the last decade alone, parents from all walks of life -- pediatricians, soldiers, nurses, rocket scientists -- have accidentally left their kids in the car with dire results.
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"The stories of these deaths often follow the same trend: parents falling out of their usual routines, or leaving their children in the hands of others who are not normally involved in caretaking," says Deborah Hersman, president & CEO of the National Safety Council. "While most stories don’t occupy national headlines, the end result is the same. A life ending too soon."
Whether you think you would never in a million years forget your child in the car, please read these 7 tips for making sure you don't leave your child in the car this summer. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Place an object in your back seat. Parents should put something in the back of their vehicle that requires them to open the back door every time they park, such as a cellphone, employee badge, handbag, lunch, or even a shoe. "The phone is my first choice since we also want to encourage drivers to focus on the road while driving and let phone calls wait," says Amy Artuso Heinzen, Program Manager for the National Safety Council.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the carseat. When you're driving with your baby in the car, place the stuffed animal on the front seat as a reminder that your baby is with you. "Doing this serves as a visual reminder that any time the stuffed animal is up front, the baby is in the back," says Janette Fennell, founder & president of KidsandCars.org
- Make it routine to open the back door of your car every time you get out. Channel your inner obsessive-compulsive and make it a habit to open the back door, regardless of who's riding with you. This way, you'll never forget to check your back seat when your baby is with you.
- Ask your child care provider to call you if your child hasn't arrived as scheduled. Too often children are left in cars due to the fact that the person watching them isn't familiar with their routine or safety precautions. Not only should you check to make sure your child is where she's supposed to be, it's important you educate anyone who's going to be watching your child on car safety.
- Keep keys and remote openers out of children's reach. Sadly, there have been cases where children have died from being stuck inside a car when they're the ones who've locked themselves in. It's crucial small children don't have access to cars when parents aren't around. And on the same token, "parents should always keep their vehicles locked -- even when they're in the garage or driveway," explains Fennell.
- If you spot a child alone in a car, don't hesitate -- call 911 immediately. Think you're acting rash? Think again. "Children’s bodies do not regulate temperature like adults," notes Heinzen. "Heatstroke can occur in a very short amount of time."
- Pay especially close attention during schedule changes or holidays, when you’re more distracted. "We have heard repeatedly from families who have suffered this tragedy that a child was left in the car when they were outside of their normal routines, such as a change in child care plan or after a doctor visit," says Heinzen. Make an effort to be extra vigilant when you know you've got a lot going on.
Do you have any tricks for making sure you remember your child is in the back seat?
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