A year ago, my neighbor's kids climbed into their family car. Somehow, they managed to release the brake. The vehicle rolled down a hill, toward a lake. What saved them: the car slammed into a tree. They were fine, but this story could easily not have had a happy ending.
That day, I talked to my kids about the danger of playing in cars. And I definitely wasn't wrong to do that—a new kind of hot car story that is going viral further highlights how unsafe it is for kids to be in cars alone, ever. Mom and photographer Amy Amos recently shared the terrifying situation that played out when her 4-year-old got stuck in their car.
In an essay called, "I would never forget my child in a hot car..." Amos recounts how after a trip to the pool with her kids, she unbuckled her son from his car seat, opened his car door for him, and went inside to drop wet towels in the laundry room, and use the bathroom. Unbeknownst to her, her little guy had remained inside the car, while his siblings accidentally closed the door behind them. But then, he "couldn't open the car doors from the inside by himself."
Ten minutes later, and after a frantic search of the house, Amos found him in the car. "The doors were shut, he was sweating and sobbing with his face pressed against the window." It turns out, as she explains, "As we walked inside earlier he was laying on the floor of the car looking for his lost flip flop. One of the other kids thought he had already gotten out and that he had just left his car door open, so she closed it trying to be helpful."
"I'm sure you all are like me–you think you would never forget your kid in a hot car," this mom writes. And if you're like me, you're nodding your head. But then she asks, "But what if your kid gets trapped in a hot car by accident? It could happen so easily."
Amos' story clearly illustrates how true those words are. She further offers her plan for making sure what happened to her little boy, doesn't happen again.
"Tomorrow my [son] will be practicing how to open the car from the inside all by himself: Opening the door handles, how the locks work, and how to honk the horn until someone comes to help if you can't open the door. And the buttons too! Our Highlander has a button by the steering wheel that opens the back hatch. He will be practicing how to find and push that button successfully."
She adds, "I'm also going to make sure he can unbuckle his car seat. I'm fairly certain he will be able to at least undo the chest clip, and I'll have him practice pulling his legs up and out from there, just in case he ever finds himself in the car and needs to get out."
Amos says she thinks all preschoolers should learn these skills. She further cautions parents, "Please take 10 minutes of your day and be sure your kids at least know how to push the buttons and honk the horn if they accidentally get in the car alone, and have them practice opening the doors from the inside if they're strong enough. Remind your friends with small children to do the same. You never know, they could get into the car when you least expect it. Knowing how to get out might save their lives."
Now please excuse me while I go conduct a mini-car safety lesson with my 4-year-old!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.