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Very few people realize just how cool the outside temperature can be for a child to die in a hot car. If the baby is warmly dressed, they can still die of hyperthermia at 50ºF. At 75ºF, it only takes 15 minutes for a baby to die of heat in a car. Rolling the window down doesn’t prevent car seats, upholstery, dashboards, and other interior items from heating up, making the interior environment of a car deadly to babies, young children, disabled adults, and pets.

Parking in the shade, rolling windows down, these don’t make the car cool enough to keep your child safe. Signs of heat stress and heat sickness are different in babies and small children than they are in older children or adults. Sleepiness and crankiness are their most common signs – and people often shrug those off as common behaviors, especially since many babies fall asleep in moving cars and are often cranky when awakened, not signs of dehydration, heat sickness, or impending heat stroke.

At least one baby or toddler dies in a hot car each week from April to October. Most of the parents are good parents, caring and careful, but no one really teaches parents about car safety for babies and toddlers other than the car seats. And most of the teaching about infant car seats is directly counter to what parents need to know in order to keep their babies safe all the time – rear facing infant seats set in the middle of the back seat may keep the baby safe from air bags and safer in accidents, but they contribute strongly to forgotten babies. We don’t have any way to measure how often babies are almost forgotten – or are forgotten and the parent remembers before a tragedy happens and retrieves the baby at the last minute, but those instances are probably far more common than we’d believe.

There are things parents and caretakers of babies and toddlers can do to insure the safety of those babies and toddlers. Most of them are simple and easy to learn, certainly no harder than installing childproof locks and covers, or picking up things from the floor that might harm a child.

Here’s a short list of things people caring for and transporting small children can do to keep them from dying in a hot car:

1. Always put your bags, briefcase, and anything you need for work or shopping or visiting friends on the floorboard of the back seat. That way, you’ll always have to look in the back seat and will see the sleeping baby. Always put those things there even if you don’t have a child with you because the chances are high that if you aren’t in the habit of putting your things there, you might forget when you have a child with you and then forget to check the back seat – leading to the death of the child.

2. Seat the child’s car seat behind the passenger seat. When set in the middle or behind the driver’s seat, it can’t be seen from the driver’s seat and makes it easier to forget a child is there. Most babies who die in hot cars are positioned behind the driver.

3. If you routinely travel with a small child, keep a stuffed toy in the car seat. When you put a child in the car seat, place the toy in the front seat to remind you there’s a baby back there.

4. Ask that your child’s sitter or daycare phones you promptly if your child isn’t dropped off as scheduled – or develop a habit of calling them every day as soon as you get to work – even before you get out of your car – to either tell them your child is sick and won’t be in or to check that they’ve settled in.

5. Make it a habit to always open the back door of your car or to look in the back seat if it’s a 2-door car.

6. Never assume the person riding with you has taken the child out of the car seat.

7. Never assume your partner or other baby caretaker has taken the baby instead of you.

8. Put up signs and stickers to remind you about the baby – places like Kids and Cars sell static cling decals to remind you to check the car seat. These only work as long as you don’t tune them out. It’s easy to overlook something that’s always there. For some people, though, this can be the difference between a living baby and a dead baby, so give it a try.

9. They finally make monitors that will alert you when you get out of a car if there’s a baby in a car seat. There are at least two. I prefer the ChildMinder System – it sounds an alarm if you walk away from a car and leave a baby in the seat. This wakes the baby and starts it crying so you have immediate confirmation that you forgot the baby. The other one plays a lullaby, which doesn’t always wake the baby, so other people may prefer it.

10. If you do not normally take a child to day care or have a child with you when you shop – always tell someone else before you leave with said child and ask them to call you when you get to work or periodically as you are out shopping. Call the day care and tell them you instead of the usual person will be dropping the child off and if you don’t arrive, to call you in case you forgot.

As you can tell, communication is very important is preventing hot car deaths of babies.

And if you accidentally lock your keys and the baby in the car – hide a window hammer in the undercarriage to break a window (one not near the baby – the front passenger side window is the best one to break). A broken car window is so much easier to fix and so much faster – your baby has 5 minutes to live in a hot car at most. There’s no time to panic and try to flag people down to call 911 (because if you keys are in the car, your cell phone probably is, too) or for 911 to get there and unlock the door. If you have your cell phone, call 911 immediately and tell them you locked your keys and baby in the car and it’s hot and you need help ASAP. If you have to, break the damned window while you’re waiting and buy a new one.

The baby’s life is worth it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What's always scared me more (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alguien, Noddy, elmo, txcatlin, chimene, weck, bumbi

    was the incidences of babies and disabled kids left on child care vans and on school buses. Maybe I always had noisy kids who didn't sleep much in the car, but I never had a problem with forgetting myself. We've had a rash of daycare and elementary school buses for a few years down here though, with kids dying because they were forgotten in the back of the bus after some field trip.  So if you know your child is going on a field trip in daycare, call to check on your kid when you know they are supposed to be back!

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 01:22:08 PM PDT

    •  It wasn't easy (6+ / 0-)

      as a single parent and not on welfare, but I managed to not send any of my children to day care.  

      When they rode the school bus, there was a check in sheet that had the name of every student assigned to that bus, and the students had to tick off when they boarded and the bus driver had to tick off as they disembarked to make sure they all got on and all got off.  Children riding a bus they normally didn't had to sign in and were then checked out.

      I understand that school bus drivers don't do that any more, and may never have done it in some areas.

      All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon for steampunk learning and fun.

      by Noddy on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 01:55:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't have any choice for a while. (5+ / 0-)

        When we were staying in a shelter for 8 months after our house was destroyed by a hurricane, I had to work during the day and we weren't allowed to babysit each other's kids. It was only a women and children's shelter so my other half spent that time in Tennessee  living with his parents. Other than that time and when my son was in head start when he was 4, we didn't either, because my other half was always home. But I see it in the news fairly often, or did for a few years down here. I always worried about it, especially with my daughter who was 2 at the time and fell asleep in the car or on buses, my son almost never did and was a lot older, he would have gotten himself off the bus if he had to break a window.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 02:22:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  boy, the benefits of smaller schools (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Noddy, FloridaSNMOM, weck, luckylizard

        the buses I rode always had the same, career drivers, who knew us, knew our faces and our names ALWAYS!

        even more so when we moved to step-dad's up in the hills. that driver was a cutie, local boy, his wife drove another bus; and they took the buses home with them in the evenings! family contractors for years and years and years.

        "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

        by chimene on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 03:22:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  i still say (5+ / 0-)

    that cars should be equipped with solar-activated cooling systems so that infant deaths in cars could be drastically reduced.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 01:30:11 PM PDT

  •  We're out of the baby stage thank (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, chimene, luckylizard

    goodness but we used to forget about our baby and leave her all sorts of places. People think that's hard to do but with our busy lives we all tend to forget where our babies are once in a while. I've always thought it would be a good idea to sell little strings a parent could wrap around his or her finger as a reminder that he/she has baby duty that day.

  •  MIRRORS (8+ / 0-)

    when our car seat was faced backward, we mounted mirrors in the back somehow, almost 20 years so hard to remember... maybe a convex bulls-eye type on the window posts? anyway, we could look in the front rear-view mirror and see him in the car-seat, clear as anything. either driver or front passenger could see,

    when he was old enough to turn the seat to front-facing, we left it in the center for quite a while, so he was directly in the sight line from the rear-view mirror.

    eventually, we got a back-of-the-seat mounted play-tray thing for him, and moved the car-seat to behind the passenger seat, but he was still quite visible in the rear-view.

    of course, he always made such a production of "clicking-up" his own seat-belt (instead of us doing it) (before he could walk!), there was no way we would forget he was in the car, 8-). also, we never did day-care, and I didn't usually take the car to work anyway.

    he was SO tickled to do it himself (and we were always terribly smug that my brother was still doing up his cousin's belts when she was 2 or 3!) it was one of the first things we taught him, and we never worried about him undoing the (5-point) harness before we stopped the car, because he clearly absolutely understood what it was for! and it was harder to un-do than to fasten. it took both hands and a deal of concentration, 8-)

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 03:17:42 PM PDT

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