This is a guest article by David Christensen.
It may seem unfathomable that anyone could forget their child in their car but, once you become a parent and fully experience sleep deprivation and its side effects, it becomes very clear how such fatal accidents can happen. Forgetfulness can occur at any time, especially amid hectic or shifting schedules. In the heat of summer, the risk of leaving your child unattended in the car is even greater. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 25 children die every year from heatstroke because they were left alone in a motor vehicle. A sleeping child who doesn’t make a peep can cause even the most conscientious parent to be forgetful. Accidentally leaving a child in the car can happen to any parent or caretaker.
But forgetfulness isn’t the only danger. Many a parent has been tempted, amid the buckling and strapping and unbuckling of car seats, to leave their kids alone in the car with the doors locked for “just a few minutes” while they run back in the house or into a store. A car’s temperature can rise well above 100 degrees in just minutes on a hot day – and a cracked window isn’t going to make the heat tolerable for a child.
There is also the risk of children locking themselves in the car when playing or left unattended. Kids can find their own way into a car if they’re determined enough. Heatstroke and potentially death are mere minutes away.
Diligence and good habits are the key to avoiding disaster. Here are 10 summer safety tips gathered from KidsandCars.org to help you keep your kids safe from heatstroke or worse because of being stuck in a hot car:
1. Create good habits. Stash your mobile phone, purse, or briefcase in the back seat so you’re forced to check back there to retrieve necessary personal items before getting out of the car.
2. Look before you lock. Make it a habit to open the back door of their vehicle every time you reach your destination, whether work, home, or otherwise.
3. Go stuffed. Keep an oversized stuffed toy in your child’s car seat when they’re not in it. When the child is in the seat, put the stuffed animal on the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that someone is in the back.
4. Make an off-limits rule. Don’t allow your children to play in or around cars, not even for a minute. And never leave your kids alone in or around cars, even if they’re parked in a cool garage.
5. Lock up. Keep your vehicles locked at all times, even in the driveway or garage, and set the parking brake. Never leave keys or garage door openers within a child’s reach.
6. Double-check. If a child is missing, always check vehicles and trunks immediately.
7. Depend on others. Make sure your daycare, school, or babysitter always calls you or another caretaker if your child does not reach their destination at the expected time. Many children’s lives could have been saved with one phone call from a concerned childcare provider.
8. Set reminders. People rely on their smartphones for just about everything. Set reminders about dropping your child off or to call your significant other or fellow caretaker to ensure that your child reached their destination as expected.
9. Make it convenient. So that you have to get your child in and out of the car a little less and limit the opportunities to forget them, use drive-thru services when available at restaurants, pharmacies, banks, etc.
10. Plan ahead. Be especially diligent about your child’s whereabouts on holidays, vacations, times of crisis, or schedule changes to ensure that they’re where they’re supposed to be and that you have not inadvertently forgotten them in the car.
You are responsible for your child’s safety and well-being. Taking these small steps and creating some new habits can keep your child safe. We can all be good citizens and neighbors too by keeping an eye out for a child who may have been left alone in a parked car. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Working to get them out, calling 911, or alerting others for help can save a life.
Author Bio: David Christensen is an experienced personal injury attorney with Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. Christensen Law is an auto accident law firm that specializes in helping victims with traumatic brain injury from accidents.