Each summer we see heartbreaking headlines about children being left unattended in hot vehicles. According to Kids and Cars, over 940 children have died in hot cars nationwide since 1990, and in 2018 alone, a record 52 children died from heat-related deaths. These tragedies can happen to even the most loving, caring and responsible families.
Summer is just around the corner and the weather is warming up. Child Care Aware of Virginia encourages all caregivers to never leave a child in a vehicle unattended, look in the back seat every time you leave your car, always lock your car, and keep your keys out of children’s reach.
Parents are busy and we know you are juggling a lot. How many mornings have you left your house and in a forgetful moment, think “Did I close the garage? Did I turn off the coffee pot? Did I remember to lock the front door?” How often has your usual morning routine been rerouted for one of a hundred different reasons?
These little changes in your routine may be the very things that can cause you to forget your precious cargo in the backseat. Loving, responsible parents can be overwhelmed and forget to look in the backseat. With our children’s lives on the line, we can’t afford to be distracted during our daily routines. Here are a few basic tips to help you stay alert and establish a routine to keep children safe while in your vehicle.
- Establish a system to remind yourself that your child is in the car. Try placing a briefcase, purse, or cell phone next to the child’s car seat; that way you will always check the back seat before you leave your car. Order a BabyInBabyOut hangtag for your rear view mirror to remind you to #LookBeforeYouLock.
- Involve caregivers. Ask your child care provider to send you a text or give you a call if your child does not show up as planned.
- Set an alert on your phone. Create an alarm to sound each morning around the time you drop off your child or would be settling into work. When the alarm sounds, go through a mental checklist to be sure your child is safe.
- Don’t allow access to the car. Keep your keys out of reach and your car doors locked. We all know that little ones like to explore. Taking away access to the car eliminates the possibility of them crawling into the hot car and getting trapped.
Bystanders should know that Virginia has a “Good Samaritan” law to protect themselves from lawsuits for helping a person in an emergency. If you are a bystander and see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and, if necessary, safely do what is needed to rescue the child. It takes a village to raise a child, and we are counting on the entire community to keep them safe.