The Hot Car Challenge (and App) That Could Help Save Your Baby's Life

Two days ago, a South Florida 11-month-old died after being left alone in a hot car. The baby's parents and four siblings were so busy unloading the groceries that they forgot all about the infant strapped inside. An hour later, the parents went back to the family car, saw the child and administered CPR in vain while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

It's a familiar—and heartbreaking—story, especially in the dog days of summer, yet it never gets easier to hear. For every happy ending, like the 1-year-old Massachusetts girl who survived being left behind in the family SUV, there are many more that end in tragedy. Like the 18-month-old Panama City, Fla., baby who died in the parking lot while her mom was inside teaching. Or the 16-month old in Columbia County, Fla., who died after her dad forgot to drop her off at daycare.

The good news is, there are apps that can help prevent these senseless deaths. And one popular app, Kars4KidsSafety, has been retooled so it's even easier for parents to use. First unveiled last year by the nonprofit Kars4Kids, the app syncs with your vehicle's Bluetooth to sound an alert whenever you (and your phone) leave the car, reminding you to bring your child with you. Plus, you can now personalize the app with a photo of your baby, a customized ringtone alert, and the option to tailor your notifications.

But that's not all. To help raise awareness about the dangers of leaving baby alone in a car, even for a minute, the nonprofit has also released a short, powerful film. In it, we see a handful of adult volunteers strapped in the back of an empty car in the middle of a parking lot. Their challenge? To sit there for 10 full minutes, though they have the option to press a button and leave at any time. The men and women all start out fine—one guy even beat boxes to himself—but thing take a turn as the minutes pass and the temperature spikes. Suddenly, sweat starts dripping down their faces, they're fanning themselves, and taking off extra layers. Then, panic and extreme discomfort set in, and before long they're pounding on the release button—a luxury no baby has.

"That was one of the worst things I've ever gone through in my life," says one man afterward. "It seems fine at first, but once that door closed, almost immediately it gets really hot and the air flow becomes almost oppressive." Another woman perfectly summed up point of the challenge: "I can only imagine how a child or a baby would feel in there, just waiting for someone to come and get them."

Though apps are certainly no replacement for eyeballing the backseat yourself, they're a useful backup for tired, overwhelmed, overworked parents. Kars4KidsSafety may not cost a penny to download (yes, it's free), but the peace of mind it can help give us is invaluable. (And P.S. if you ever see a baby alone in a car, call 911 immediately. You could help save a life.)

Check out the video below—and click here to download the app.

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+.

Screen shot courtesy of Kars4Kids via YouTube

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