Why kids die in hot cars, how to prevent it

kids in car seats

Every summer dozens of children die after being left in in a hot car. It is most often accidental, and yet, it continues to happen. An excellent Washington Post article by Gene Weingarten, written in 2009, talks of the horrors parents face when they suddenly remember the sleeping child in the back seat and rush to get it. Unfortunately, it is often too late. Within minutes, even at 80 degrees F the temperature in a car can rise to over 100 degrees.

Why are kids not seen in cars?

There are some theories about why this trend has continued to increase. Two decades ago this was relatively rare. However, when experts in the 1990’s determined that air bags could kill children, they recommended that car seats be placed in the back seat and facing the rear for young children.The unfortunate result was decreased visibility of a child. Who could have foreseen the horrible consequences?

Who leaves their kid alone in a car?

Forgetting a child in a car can happen to anyone.  The human brain goes on a sort of autopilot when we are engaging in  familiar and routine motor skills. People are busy multitasking, and it is easy to forget things–even a child sleeping in the back seat. Someone once told me that multitasking means you are doing a lot of thing, but none of them well. In today’s world it is easy to become distracted. This is especially true if you are tired and stressed out.

Being a parent is a 24/7 commitment with no time off. Many new parents and parents of younger children are sleep deprived. And first-time parents have to get used to a new routine: taking the baby in and out of the car. Put that together, and you have a formula for making mistakes and potential disaster. New parents have told me they got half way to the store and realized they had left the baby in the infant seat at home. Fortunately, they quickly turned around and retrieved the baby.

Take care of yourself to  minimize the chances of leaving your child in a hot car.

  • Get rest when you can. This can be a real challenge for new parent, so nap when your child does. The messy house can wait.
  • Keep in touch with friends. Having a good support system reduces feelings of stress.
  • Exercise. Put you child in the stroller and start walking. It relaxes you both.
  • Try to find a few minutes a day just for you. Take a bath and listen to music, even if it is for 15 minutes. Read a book, knit or do anything that helps you relax.
  • Breathe correctly. Abdominal breathing, often called belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing decreases tension almost immediately.

There is also growing demand for new devices that help parents or caregivers remember their child, such as a key fob that beeps if a car seat remains buckled for a certain period of time after the engine turns off. But last July, a study released by NHTSA concluded such devices were inconsistent and unreliable in their performance.

The National Weather Service offers these safety tips and recommendations for you and your children:

  • girl-light-lNever leave a child or animal alone in a vehicle–not even for a minute.
  • If you see a child unattended in a vehicle immediately call 911.
  • Be sure everyone leaves the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies.
  • Always lock your car and make sure sure kids do not have access to keys or remote entry devices. If a child is missing, always check the pool first, then the car, including the trunk. Teach your children that cars are never to be used as a play area.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat, and when the child is put in the seat, place the animal in the front with the driver.
  • Place your purse, briefcase, laptop or other item you can’t ever leave behind in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
  • Make “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car.
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up for school.
  • And remember…BEAT the HEAT   CHECK the BACKSEAT.
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One Response to “Why kids die in hot cars, how to prevent it”

  1. Dr. Ducharme   July 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for your comments, Tiffany. It is not an excuse. But it happens way too often. So I am hoping that the more we talk about it and find ways to help people stay focused and not get distracted we can prevent tragedies. It is important to remember that the same information applies to pets.