Keys? Check. Phone? Check. Purse? Check. You have everything you need as you lock the car and turn to walk into the store, but are you forgetting the most important thing in your life—your child?
Overlooking your toddler in the back seat, particularly if he or she is sleeping, is frighteningly easy to do and can have tragic consequences. More than half of child vehicular-related heat deaths occur because parents or caregivers simply forget a young passenger is in the car. Nearly nine out of 10 children who have died due to car-related heat exposure are age 3 and younger, according to KidsAndCars.org.
Whether a day is mild or oppressively hot, as is the case in much of the United States in August, the temperature inside a car rises quickly—more than 20 degrees in only 10 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Children, whose body temperatures can reach dangerous levels up to five times faster than adults’, can’t adjust to rapidly rising heat. The illnesses that result from exposure to high temperatures can be devastating, particularly the most serious, heatstroke.
You know that parenting a toddler can be a tiring, hectic endeavor. When it comes to keeping your children safe from vehicular heatstroke, stress and fatigue are dangerous ingredients that can lead to forgetfulness. A key component of vehicular heatstroke prevention is ensuring you’re alert when driving with your toddler, so prioritize getting adequate sleep and finding time each day to de-stress. Do more to avoid tragedy with these tips:
• Create a reason to check. Place something you can’t leave the car without, such as your purse or cell phone, in the seat behind you so you’ll have to open the back door before walking away.
• Don’t get out. Perform as many errands as possible from the car by using the drive-through lane.
• Make a visual. Tape a note or image to your steering wheel or dashboard that will remind you to check the backseat before exiting the car.
• Use a cuddly placeholder. Let a stuffed animal take your child’s place in the car seat when your little one isn’t with you. When the two of you are riding together, place the toy up front next to you so you’ll remember your precious passenger is on board.
One more tip: Always lock your car, even in your garage or driveway. A child may find a car an inviting place to play, oblivious to the danger of getting in.