We have all heard story after story of a child's accidental death after being left in a car. And we wonder, how does this happen? How can someone forget their most prized posession - their child? My heart breaks for those families because I am certain none of them forgot their child on purpose. When stories of these horrible accidents come out, they make me panic a little - especially now that I have a child of my own. I am a creature of habit - take me out of my routine and I become extremely forgetful, even with important tasks. Yesterday's news made me start to wonder, what are some ways we can prevent this from happening to us? None of these are 100% fool-proof, but here are ten tips that I realized Blake and I already have in place to help keep this tragedy from happening to our family.
I thought of a few, but I am also interested to hear from you!
1. Keep your purse/backpack/phone in the rear seat.
Keep something near the car seat that you always take in with you wherever you go. This way, even if you are doing something out of the ordinary (like going somewhere you usually don't take your child), you will remember the item and, therefore, see your child.
2. Have an accountability system.
In terms of daycare, Blake does the dropping-off and I do the picking-up. Blake is starting to text me in the mornings to say he dropped off Maleah at daycare. If he hasn't texted by 8:15 (they usually arrive around 8:00), I can text him to make sure he got her there. Do this with anyone who drives your child around - a grandparent, aunt/uncle, friends. It's not that you don't trust them - but year after year as these stories come out, we see how easily someone can forget. It's just an added measure of safety. You can also ask your child care provider to call if your child doesn't show up for school.
3. Take the car seat out.
We only have one car seat and two bases. Since Blake drops off and I pick up, we have to leave the car seat at daycare and take it out when we get home. Always taking out the car seat means we always take out the baby. This helps on those busy routine mornings/afternoons. And we know if we have the car seat in our car, something's fishy.
4. Don't stray from your routine.
Try not to make last-minute decisions before taking your child to daycare or after picking them up. Many of these accidental deaths revolve around a parent/guardian going somewhere before/after daycare on a whim. Run your errands after drop-off or before pick-up if you can. If you are planning to do something out of the ordinary, go back to Tip #2. Tell someone where you are going and when. Have them call or text you to make sure you are where you were supposed to be and that you have the baby with you.
5. Get a forward-facing seat.
As soon as your pediatrician agrees (some say 1-year, others say 2), get the forward-facing seat. Obviously this still isn't fool proof, but have you ever seen the rear-facing seats for older children? Honestly I am not sure how safe they are because you can't really see over the top of them from the driver's seat. So if you can't see the child, I'm sure it is easy to forget they are there - especially if they are quiet or asleep. The new "official" recommendation is two years so I am not recommending anyone do this any earlier, but many pediatricians will say it is okay to turn the seat at an earlier age - particularly depending on the child's weight.
6. Put the car seat in the center of the backseat or behind the passenger's side.
For whatever reason, some people put their child's car seat behind the driver's seat. I am sure they have valid reasons, but I am not sure it is a good idea. If the car seat is somewhere where you can see it as you are turning around or looking in the rear-view mirror, you will more than likely realize you have your child with you.
7. Use mirrors so you can see the baby.
We have a mirror set up in my car so I can see Maleah's face in my rear view mirror. We haven't yet set up one in Blake's car, but need to ASAP - especially after yesterday's story! Being able to see them is key!
8. Keep an item in your car that reminds you of the baby.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website has many, many more great ideas. One I hadn't even considered was to keep a toy or other item in your car that reminds you of your child. Place a stuffed animal in the car seat and when you put the child in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the passenger's seat along with your things. When you get to your destination and begin to gather your items, you'll notice the toy and the child.
9. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you notice a child left in an unattended car.
In many states, it is illegal to leave your child in an unattended car for any length of time. Did you hear that? Illegal. Even if it isn't illegal, injury or death to a child left will result in prosecution. If you see a child and do not report it and the child is injured or dies, you can also be held responsible. In addition to calling 9-1-1-, you can also go into the place of business where the car is parked and ask for an announcement to be made so the driver can get the child quickly. Or stand by the car for a few minutes to see if the driver is nearby. A few years ago, I went to a gas station with Arnold (our dog) and left him in the car while I ran inside. It wasn't terribly hot and I was nervous about leaving him, but I knew I would literally only be inside for a few minutes. When I came out, two women were standing by my car giving me these nasty looks. It was awkward and, honestly, I felt a little offended. But I appreciated what they were doing and understood their concern. I would hope someone would do the same should the unthinkable happen and I leave a child in the car.
10. NEVER leave a baby/child in an unattended car - EVER.
Practice makes perfect, right? If you are in the habit of always taking your child out of the car, then that will become your habit. Just like locking your doors or turning off your headlights becomes habit. Don't even think that leaving the car running is a good option. If you are going to be away from your car for any period of time, take your child with you. It is a hassle, yes. But it is worth it.