Are you tired? Busy? Late? Distracted? If you have a young child, then you can probably answer "yes" to all of those questions, and they are factors frequently at play when a young child is forgotten in a car. Most often, this scenario plays out when one adult thinks the other has gotten the baby out of the car, there is a change of routine, a tired parent forgets to drop off a child at daycare, or there is any situation in which an infant or young child is sleeping quietly in the back seat. “I feel very strongly they are failures of memory and not failures of love," says Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Cars.
Children and infants are particularly affected by hot environments because their systems aren't developed enough to adequately regulate their body temperature. On a typical New Orleans summer day, the temperature outside can easily heat a car interior to 130°F in a matter of minutes, quickly pushing a youngster’s core body temp to fatal heat stroke levels.
So it goes without saying that you should never, ever leave your child unattended in the car, even on a mild day or with the windows down. But what about preventing tragic mistakes and car accidents? It turns out there are several strategies experts recommend:
1. Get in the habit of always checking the backseat for forgotten items as you lock the car.
2. Place a reminder of your child, such as the diaper bag, in the front passenger seat. You can also designate a special stuffed animal to ride shotgun every time your child is riding with you.
3. Another incredibly simple but effective strategy is to put something you need next to your child in the back seat. Your left shoe is a frequent suggestion, but your purse, briefcase, or electronic device would also work.
4. Most importantly, Ms. Fennell advises parents to be aware that EVERY human brain has the capacity to fail when the "habit" memory overrides the "prospective" memory, so be extra-vigilant with any change of routine.
Also be alert to the dangers of hot cars for older, mobile children. They can quickly become disoriented from heat and unable to get out. Talk to your kids about not playing in the car or entering the vehicle without an adult. In addition, always lock the car, even in your driveway, and keep key fobs out of reach of children. Experts also recommend that if your child is missing, you should do a thorough check of any nearby parked cars.
We hope these tips have been helpful. The Womac Law Firm wishes you and your family a safe and happy summer.