Think it can’t happen to you … Think again!
A child has already died this year in a hot car
It’s still winter and already a child has died in a hot car. On February 28th, a 1-year-old Miami, FL boy was unknowingly left in his mother’s vehicle while she was at work. This is a tragic tale we hear about all too often, but these tragedies do not have to happen.
I know what you are thinking, “how in the world could someone possibly forget their child in a vehicle?” And if you are thinking this, you are not alone. Most people would say that this could never happen to them… until it does.
Since 1990, over 800 children have died in hot cars, according to KidsAndCars.org. An overwhelming majority of victims of hot car deaths include children age 3 and younger (88%).
In over 55% of these cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left them in the vehicle.
In these type of cases, several factors are almost always present. Lack of sleep, stress, fatigue, distractions and a change in routine are issues all parents of young children experience. These can cause our brain to not function the way it normally would. Ever heard of ‘mommy brain’ or ‘autopilot?’
In nearly every case we have studied, there has been a change in the family’s normal daily routine. It could be as simple as a change in which parent is supposed to do the daycare drop-off or changing the order of which child gets dropped off first. Even a simple road detour could throw off your normal routine.
When you combine fatigue with a change in routine, our brain’s habit memory system takes over and puts us in what is commonly known as ‘autopilot.’ This function in our brain happens automatically and is what allows us to get from point A to point B without thinking about all the specific details because we’ve done it so many times before. This can lead to a parent driving directly to work (as they normally would) and past the daycare, never realizing they missed the stop. In fact, in many cases, the parent goes to the daycare at the end of the day to pick-up their baby only to be told that they never dropped off their child. Can you imagine the horror?
A child is absolutely safest riding rear-facing until age two. However, there is an unintended consequence of this seating position. A rear-facing car seat looks the same from the driver’s seat whether there is a baby in there or not. Many babies fall asleep in the car. A rear-facing, sleeping child is out of sight and silent, making them more vulnerable to being unknowingly left.
About one-third of child hot car deaths happen when a child gets into a vehicle on their own and becomes trapped. Very few deaths involve any type of neglect, substance abuse or children who were knowingly left.
KidsAndCars.org believes the solution is a combination of education and technology. The HOT CARS Act of 2017 would require all vehicles to come with a driver reminder system to prevent hot car deaths. We know that solutions exist to prevent these deaths, making this loss of lives even more tragic.
Want to get involved in preventing hot car deaths? Call or write your Congress members and ask them to support the HOT CARS Act of 2017.
Remember … the worst mistake any parent can make is to think that this could never happen to them. Please put the safety tips below into action for your children and share these safety tips with your friends and family.
To prevent your child from being unknowingly left in your car:
- Make it a habit to double check the back seat before leaving your vehicle – “Look before you lock.”
- Ask your child care provider to call you immediately if your child does not show up as planned.
- Be extra cautious when there has been a change in routine.
To prevent your child from getting into your vehicle:
- Always keep keys out of reach of children.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times.
- If your child goes missing, immediately check the inside and trunks of all vehicles in the area.
Learn more simple safety tips to help make sure your child is safe HERE!
Check out the trailer to “Fatal Distraction,” a documentary where parents tell their stories about the loss of their child in a hot car. WATCH TRAILER
For more information on child hot car deaths, please visit Kidsandcars.org HERE.
About Amber Andreasen
Amber Andreasen is the Director and Volunteer Manager of KidsAndCars.org. Ms. Andreasen graduated from the University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!) with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare.
While working towards her degree, Ms. Andreasen worked at Community LINC in Kansas City, MO a transitional housing program to end homelessness, impact poverty and remove barriers to self-sufficiency for the families she served.
Ms. Andreasen has always had a passion for helping others. She has been a provider and steadfast advocate for the developmentally disabled in many different arenas.
Ms. Andreasen began her career in injury prevention with KidsAndCars.org in 2005. Ms. Rollins is responsible for the management of the day-to-day operations, major projects and coordinates KidsAndCars.org’s national volunteer network.
Ms. Andreasen currently resides in Olathe, KS with her husband, son, step-daughter, beloved cats (Jackson and Charlie) and dog (Star).