Leaving children unattended in a vehicle for even a few minutes can be risking their life; in fact, nearly 40 kids in the U.S. die every year in hot cars. These tragedies can and do happen to anyone; no parent is immune. The human brain is designed to go into autopilot in times of stress or fatigue, and all parents (especially new ones) can find themselves stressed and fatigued at some point. Fortunately, there are safety habits you can easily implement that can help save the life of your child.
"...Painfully aware of how close I could have been to disaster."
Felicia Ellis, a mom of two young children, recently had her own near-tragic experience, which she shared after participating in a Primary Children's safety demonstration this week.
"Immediately after returning from maternity leave with Sawyer in February, I was exhausted. I was sleep-deprived from having a newborn and a two-year-old who is still not sleeping through the night. I was emotionally worn down and worried about leaving my tiny infant, who had just gotten out of the hospital with an RSV infection, at daycare. I had mounds of paperwork awaiting me with 7 IEPs and 2 full re-evaluations due in the 5 weeks after I returned. My body was still healing and my mind was racing.
The roads near my house are in a perpetual state of construction, and for whatever reason this day, the road I typically took to drop off my boys at daycare was closed. I took two different turns than usual and realized when I was a few streets away from the daycare center that my sweet, sleeping, rear-facing boys were still in the backseat. I had driven right past the turn that I had taken for months while taking Tucker to daycare.
That day at work, as I spent my lunch hour pumping milk from the biological reminders that I have a baby, I cried. I was ashamed of myself and painfully aware of how close I could have been to disaster. If this had happened in June instead of February, if I had gotten to the school and immersed myself in the work I am passionate for, I could have left that day in handcuffs.
I had told myself while reading the heartbreaking scenarios so excruciatingly told every summer - crying with empathy for these sweet children who had died - that it could never happen to me. I want to think that I am a good mother. I adore my children - and not just my own. I love and teach children for a living. How could I forget? But my fragile, human brain, pressured under a break in routine and immense amounts of emotional and physical stress, didn't forget about my children. I forgot about a turn in the road, which could have turned into a tragedy."
No child should ever be left unattended in a vehicle for any amount of time - even a quick trip into the store is too long. Accidents happen, and 33 percent of children who die from being left in a hot car are less than one year old. Like Felicia's small children, they may be asleep when you leave the car and not be aware or able to remind you that they're there. Follow these tips to keep your little ones safe:
- Make a habit of checking your vehicle before leaving it.
- Put your purse, briefcase, or phone in the backseat so you will have to check the back when you arrive at your destination.
- Keep a stuffed animal or other reminder next to you in the car as a cue that your child is with you.
- If you see a child left alone in a car, contact the police or call 911.
- Use a Baby Safety Snap
Baby Safety Snap
The Baby Safety Snap lanyard is a low-tech visual reminder that you have a child in the backseat. Check our demonstration video (featuring Felicia and her baby, Sawyer) and visit primarychildrens.org/neverleave to learn more and request your own Baby Safety Snap.