For the past few years, along with the sweltering heat of Summer, we’ve been bombarded with stories in the news about young children being left alone in hot cars. Somehow, we’ve got to hope that this year will be different. We are all going to remember that sweet, precious child we strapped in the car seat, right?
Here are some tips to make sure you don’t forget:
1. Keep something that belongs to the child in the front passenger seat.
Leave their baby bag, backpack, toy or a blanket in the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the back seat. If you don’t have room because there’s a passenger in the front seat, there’s no way both of you should forget about the child to begin with.
2. Leave something in the child’s car seat when s/he is not with you.
Make yourself get in the habit of always checking your child’s car seat by setting your wallet, purse or backpack there when they’re not in the car with you.
3. Try not to be too distracted.
Yet another important reason why we should not be using cell phones while driving. Whatever it is can wait….unless, of course, it’s an emergency.
4. Use technology to help remind you.
The ChildMinder is perfect for protecting children from being left unintentionally in the car. To use it, you place the elite pad under the car seat or booster cushion. The child sits on top of it and it monitors your child’s occupancy in the seat. It has a key ring that you put on your key chain and will sound an alarm 6 seconds after a parent/caregiver walks more than 15 feet away from a car.
If someone else regularly cares for your child and you worry about something like this happening to them…make sure they have this device so that your child will be safe.
Or use an app like the Baby Reminder which will remind you when you arrive at your destination not to leave your baby in the car. If you forget your phone in the car it will text your spouse and let them know that something is not right.
If you purposely leave your child in the car
There is the occasion where a child is left in a car while the caregiver runs into a gas station or into someone’s house. I do not recommend that infants and young children be left by themselves in a car for any amount of time…however…there are some who will do this anyway regardless of what I or anyone else has to say. And in that case, I’m going to give some risky advice…so please proceed with caution.
If you are going to leave a child in a car while you are away for less than a few minutes…make sure your child is properly buckled into his/her car seat, leave the car running with the AC on and lock the car doors. Be sure to have either a spare key or a key less entry device with you to unlock the door when you get back. Do not attempt this with a young child who is able to unbuckle himself…he just may put the car in drive and seriously hurt himself. Remember, this is not the greatest advise, it would be better if you take your child with you to alleviate all risks. But for some, common sense lost it’s swag a long time ago.
If you see a young child left in a car by themselves
Unless the child is visibly distressed, do not immediately call the police or stand close by the car staring at the child. This may frighten her. Instead, wait a moment to see if the caregiver goes back to the car. Do not yell obscenities and declare what a bad parent s/he is…..you have no idea what the situation could be.
For example….I went to a grocery store one evening and needed to quickly run in and out of the store. I had my two sons in the back seat who were 13 and 3 at the time. Since my eldest son was with me, I left them both in the car. When I came out of the store 3 minutes later, there was a lady staring into the side window of my car while an employee was standing behind my car taking down my tag number. As I approached my car and asked what was going on….the employee informs me, “M’am, you can’t leave your children alone in a car.”
Um, yes I can….he’s 13 years old! They didn’t realize this because my teen son had slumped down in the seat…embarrassed and wondering why they were staring into our car.
While I’m sure they thought they were doing the right thing, not every situation is life threatening and not everyone will be the hero who saves the day.
But if you see a child left alone in a car and s/he is crying and the driver of the car does not come back quickly…now is the time to act. Call 911 and follow the directions given by the operator.