With national headlines about a 22-month-old boy who died in a hot car after being left by his father — something the dad said he did unintentionally but police think otherwise — concerns about parents or caregivers forgetting children inside vehicles on summer days has been renewed as an important safety topic.
Melanie Payne for a column in the Fort Myers News-Press recommended parents who might be prone to forgetting or those who are just worried about accidentally leaving their children in the car put something they won't forget — like one of their shoes — in the back seat.
Putting something on the back seat as a reminder isn't a new idea. Safety groups have been pushing it for years telling people to put something you will need when you reach your destination.
You don't always have your laptop, your purse, or your cellphone. But you do always have a shoe.
So when you put your kid on the back seat, put your left shoe back there, too.
Do it every time. Tell whoever takes your kid in a car to do it too. Help each other remember. Spread the word. Make it a habit and make sure no child is ever left to die in a hot car.
Watch the News-Press' report about this tip:
Don't believe you could ever be so forgetful as to leave a child in the car?
According to a survey from San Francisco State University, in 2014 alone there have been at least 13 heatstroke deaths as a result of children being in hot cars. On average, 38 children have died in hot cars each year since 1998. The study authors noted that even on days considered mild — those in the 70-degree range — can result in temperatures that are too hot for children inside a vehicle.
More than 51 percent of such deaths that occurred between 1998 and 2013 resulted from the child being forgotten by the caregiver, while 29 percent happened when a child was playing unattended in the vehicle. Eighteen percent of cases occurred when an adult intentionally left the child in the car.
Tiffany Hays Dixon is a mother who lost her 2-year-old son after he was playing in a parked car without her knowledge and later couldn't get out.
"These kinds of tragedies are 100 percent preventable," Hays Dixon said. “We have to keep raising awareness and educating parents and caregivers to make sure what happened to our family doesn’t happen to anyone else."
Florida Today also called upon one of its own staffers, Stephanie Herndon who is dubbed "Turbo Mom," to provide other tricks to help prevent these tragedies from happening as well:
• An idea for someone who tends to be forgetful, or just wants to be on the safe side, is to set a reminder on your phone. Before you leave to go anywhere, set a reminder/alert to go off at the time of your arrival. For example, I know it takes me 30 minutes to get to [this place] so set the alert for 30 minutes from now. Ding-ding-ding…"Check Backseat!" Especially if you're out of routine, set a reminder just in case.
• Clip a baby toy to your rearview mirror, like the stroller/carseat toys with rings on them to clip onto things. If you keep seeing a bouncing, rattling toy in your peripheral vision, you're likely to keep baby top of mind and remember to get him/her out at your destination, or to remember to take that different route in the morning to the daycare instead of straight to work.
• Put a sticker on your driver's side window or on your door handle. I lock my car by pushing a button on the door handle, others use a key. Put a sticker right there where you lock your car so you always see it. If you lock your car by using a remote, put a sticker over the button so you're sure to notice it when locking your car and be reminded of your tiny human in the car.
• Oldie but goodie, tie a ribbon to your finger. If you get to work having forgotten your baby in the car, you'll be reminded by this intrusive annoyance on your finger while you're typing, pouring your coffee, etc.
The father in Georgia who has been charged with murder of his 22-month-old is not the only recent case of children being dangerously left in a hot car. A Pennsylvania couple is facing child endangerment charges after they left their 2-year-old in a car while they went into a bar to drink. Though this child was “slumped, sweating and unresponsive in a car seat in the back seat of the vehicle," according to the police's news release, he lived and was taken to the hospital.
On Thursday in Long Island, New York, a lethargic toddler was rescued from a car, which authorities estimate was up to 120 degrees, that she was left in while her father was shopping. The father claimed he was in the store for 25 minutes. He was arrested on charges of child endangerment.
Front page image via Shutterstock.