On Tuesday, Jamie Buckley pulled into the parking lot of the Panama City, Fla., elementary school where she taught. It was 7:30 a.m. and, presumably, a morning like most others—with one major exception. Buckley forgot that her 18-month-old daughter, Reagan, was still strapped in the back seat. The temperatures climbed, and by afternoon it was 83 degrees outside the car and even hotter inside. By the time Buckley opened the driver's side door at 3:15 p.m., her baby had died.
Sadly, the Florida mom isn't the only one to make this fatal mistake. So far this year, we've heard about the 16-month old in Columbia County, Fla., who died after her dad forgot to drop her off at daycare, and the 2 1/2-year-old Phoenix boy who died after his father forgot he was in the car. Then there was the Massachusetts dad who only remembered he left his 1-year-old in the backseat after he boarded the commuter train to work. (He frantically called 911, and the little girl survived.)
Though some people are quick to criticize these parents, the fact is, it can happen to any of us. It's too easy to get distracted when you're juggling the hectic demands of work, child care duties, errands, traffic—basically, the stuff of everyday life. Unfortunately, we see this play out every year, especially during summer. Last year alone, 30 children died as a result of being left in a hot car. Thirty. And while that's the lowest number we've seen since 2006, it's still far too many.
Of course, there are things we can do to help prevent such a tragedy. You can download an app that will send you helpful reminders to take your baby out of the car with you—especially handy for those of us who live with our phones strapped to our bodies. Or, for a more low-tech approach, commit these tips from Safe Kids Worldwide to memory:
* Never leave your child alone in a car. Not even for a minute while you run in the grocery store.
* Keep your car locked whenever you're not in it, so your child doesn't get in by himself.
* Create a reminder. This could be as simple as putting something important, like your purse or phone, next to your child so you'll be forced to look in the backseat before you exit the car.
And as always, if you see a baby alone in a car, call 911 immediately. You could help save a life.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
Avoid a Car-Seat Mistake
Image of baby in car courtesy of Shutterstock