Keep Kids and Keys with You
You've likely heard it before, but it bears repeating: Never leave your child or your keys in the car.
Kids with access to keys or remote access buttons can put cars into gear or even neutral, causing the vehicle to roll away. Children with car keys can also enter a trunk either from the outside or, in some cars, through rear seats, finding themselves trapped inside—a dangerous predicament.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 1996 to the present at least 241 children have died of heatstroke after being trapped inside parked cars, and at least 31 have died already in 2004. Most of the children were in child safety seats and left behind or forgotten by an adult. Others gained access to an unlocked car and then became trapped. The NHTSA says even in temperatures as mild as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a closed vehicle can quickly heat to dangerous levels.
Because babies ride in the backseat and frequently fall asleep, they can be forgotten. Kids And Cars says this is "most certainly an unintended consequence of the huge national campaign that began in 1996 to get all children buckled in the back seat." In no way does this mean that children should ride in the front seat, but parents need to understand that sometimes "out of sight" can lead to "out of mind."
Kids And Cars offers the following safety tips to help parents from forgetting children in their cars:
- Keep a large teddy bear in the child's car seat when no one's in it. When the child is placed in the seat, put the teddy bear in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that the child is behind them in a safety seat.
- Use the "Look…then Lock" technique: Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle when you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. Leaving something you'll need (your cell phone or purse, for example) on the floor board in the back seat with help this become a habit.
- Have a specific arrangement with your daycare center, preschool, or babysitter. Always call your childcare provider if your child will not be dropped off on a particular day. Instruct your provider to track you down if they do not have your child as expected or haven't received a call from you. Give them every possible phone number to get in touch with you, a family member, or friend so the whereabouts and safety of your child can be confirmed.
With today's families spending more time on the road than ever, being aware of these hazards and employing smart strategies in and around the car are critical steps in keeping your family safe.