To most parents, it seems impossible: How in the world could someone forget their child in the car? And yet, it's not. Heartbreakingly, nearly 700 children have died in hot cars in the past 15 years, and the majority of those children were forgotten there by their parents or caregivers. And while it may make us feel safer to villainize those parents and think, "That would never happen to me," the sobering fact is that it could happen to anyone. That's why every parent should take steps to prevent a tragedy like this from happening.
"We all spend a great deal of time and money to childproof our home," says Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org. "We need to childproof our car with the same care." She advises taking multiple steps to make sure you always remember your child in the car:
1. Be extra alert if your routine changes. That's when the risk of unintentionally leaving your child in your car increases.
2. Put something of your child's, like a toy, on the front seat. Even if you can't see your child in the backseat (especially if he's in a rear-facing car seat), the toy should trigger a reminder that he's there.
3. Leave an item you'll need at your next destination in the backseat, such as your cell phone, purse, or briefcase.
4. Place your child's car seat in the middle of the backseat rather than behind the driver. That way, it's easier to see her in your rearview mirror.
5. Set up a system with your child-care provider. If you don't plan to drop off your child that day, call her. If the child doesn't arrive as expected, have the caregiver call you.
6. Discuss the topic of hot-car deaths with every person who drives your child anywhere. This includes partners, grandparents, babysitters, and friends.
7. Always "look before you lock." Get in the habit of checking the backseat every time you get out of the car.
Finally, if you see any child in a car seat alone in a car, call 911.
This is how quickly the temperature inside a vehicle rises on a 70°F day, based on research by Jan Null, department of earth and climate sciences, San Francisco State University. Null also found that keeping the windows open slightly had little effect and that car interiors with darker colors heat up faster.
After 10 minutes = 89°F
After 20 minutes = 99°F
After 30 minutes = 104°F
After 60 minutes = 113°F
After 2 hours = 120°F