I wrote a very similar article 2 years ago, but in 2014 on June 20, there had only been 13 heatstroke deaths in vehicles. This year, we’re on a record pace with 16 deaths through the end of June, and we’re up to 23 as of this writing. Even since Jennie wrote about this in her article on May 24, we’ve had FOURTEEN more deaths. It makes me weepy and I’m not a weepy person. At least 6 of these deaths have been vehicle entrapments where the kids have gotten into the vehicles because they were unlocked, but the children lacked the skills to get out. Can you imagine? Two were twins.
These deaths are preventable, but we also have to realize that kids do crazy, unpredictable things and our brains aren’t infallible. Even the most cautious children sometimes do things you never imagined in a million years they would ever do. And even the smartest, most responsible among us can be distracted by a change in routine that can lead us to forget the most valuable cargo in the back seat. This distraction has a name: Forgotten Baby Syndrome and we can help ourselves overcome it.
Here are 10 important tips to help prevent more tragedies:
- If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle (including the trunk!) – check neighbor’s pools and vehicles second
- Arrange to have your childcare provider contact you when your child doesn’t show up that day. Make sure they have multiple contact numbers to call/text and that they keep calling until they reach a live person.
- Keep all vehicles LOCKED at all times, even when they are in the garage and keep your keys/key fobs out of reach
- Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat when you are driving
- Another option, put one shoe in the back seat when you are driving —you’re not going to walk away from your vehicle without your other shoe!
- Make it a habit to always look in the back seat when getting out of the car
- Teach your children that it’s NEVER okay to play in the car or to go into the car to get something without a grown-up
- Teach your children NEVER to hide in the car or inside the trunk
- However, also teach your children to blow the horn repeatedly to attract attention if they are ever trapped inside a vehicle
- Please don’t forget pets—if it’s too hot for baby in the car, it’s too hot for your pet
To use the overdone cliché—this problem takes a village to solve. We must stop being sanctimonious about being the perfect parent who would *never* forget their child, or never not notice that our child wasn’t where we thought he or she was. We need to stop pointing fingers. I’m certainly not perfect and I dare you not to be as well. We must stand together as parents who are exhausted, overworked, overextended, over-talked at, overtechnologied, and overwhelmed at the point in their child’s life when they must be tuned in the most. As a village, we must look out for each other: if a mom looks like she needs a break for a few minutes, offer one. These days, she’s not likely to ask for it for fear of looking like she can’t make that Pinterest-perfect dinner. If a dad is late to work, ask him if he dropped his kid off at daycare today. If either is having a bad day, or a great day, say “hi” and ask how their kids with the beautiful eyes or curls are doing (surely we can all find something beautiful about a child to comment on?). It may be the one thing that jogs their memory that saves their child’s life that day. These sad stories will only stop when we all take the time together to make sure they end and look out for these kids (and pets too).