Here at The Stir we come across an alarming number of stories about babies and toddlers dying of heat stroke after being left inside a hot car. In fact, we see far more than we could ever write about. Every time I hear of another death, I can't help thinking, why does this keep happening? How can we prevent perfectly healthy children from dying this way? Thankfully a new PSA is showing parents exactly how this happens. "One Decision," a video on vehicular heat stroke, is a simple reenactment of a mom leaving her child in the car while she stops into a store to pick up "just a few things." The result is devastating. But the most shocking thing of all -- the mom looks like any one of us.
She's not a slob, she's not on drugs, she looks like an ordinary, responsible, middle-class mom. But she makes one bad choice. And the people who notice her baby locked inside the car also made a poor choice by not saying or doing anything.
Keep the number 15 in your mind. So far this summer, 15 children have died from being left inside a hot car.* And we're still in mid-July. It can take just 15 minutes for a child in a hot car to suffer life-threatening brain or kidney injuries. Fifteen minutes is about how long it can take to run into the grocery store to pick up some milk. Of course, you probably know plenty of people who have left their babies in the car for just a few minutes and nothing bad happened, and that's kind of why kids keep dying. Children don't die every time, so somehow parents seem to think it's a safe gamble to make -- but it's not.
*UPDATE: It's actually more. As of this writing, 23 children have died of vehicular heat stroke. The fact sheet I've linked to is updated regularly, so expect that number to rise, unfortunately. You can read more about how heatstroke works on small children left in cars.
And then there are the parents who leave their kids in the car by accident because they're preoccupied, busy, or just plain sleep-deprived. For these parents, the Cars and Kids organization has helpful tips for preventing vehicular heat stroke.
Back seat: Put something in the back seat whenever you strap a child in, so you have to open the back door, or at least turn around to find that item, when you get out of the car. Your handbag or briefcase, cellphone, or employee badge.
Every child should be correctly restrained in the back seat.
Stuffed animal: Keep a brightly colored one in the car seat when your child isn’t there. Then move it from the car seat to the front seat after you strap your child in, to remind you when your baby is in the back seat.
Ask your baby sitter or child-care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn't arrived on time.
Focus on driving: Avoid cellphone calls and text-messaging while driving.
Every time you park your vehicle -- every single time -- open the back door to make sure no one has been left behind.
I think that first tip is especially helpful. It's a smart way to force yourself to remember your child. Sad that anyone should need that reminder, but like I said -- we've come across a lot of sad stories. It happens to normal, well-meaning, responsible parents like you.
Does this PSA change your mind about leaving a child in your car while you run an errand?
Image via RedCastleProductions/YouTube