Each summer, when the first heat wave hits, we are reminded of the importance of car safety with babies and toddlers. Yet each year, an average of 37 children in our country die from being left in hot cars, and many others survive near-miss incidents that could have ended tragically as well. These accidental deaths are usually the result of a change in routine or a simple distraction, and with proper preparation, they can be prevented. Here are some tips:
- If your infant or toddler attends a school or daycare, ask the daycare to put a policy in place to call all parents when their child is not dropped off by a certain time. Parents agree to alert the school ahead of time for planned absences and right away when a child is home sick.
- Place personal items, such as a briefcase or purse, in the backseat at your young child’s feet. This ensures that you will open the back door of the car when you get to work.
- Get adequate sleep. Distractions are much more likely when you are tired.
- If you are tired, as many new parents are, take a few minutes before leaving the house to organize the steps of your day. This can mean visualizing the things you have to do, including taking your child in and out of the car at the various stops. Making a to-do list also helps. Any tool to make you more mindful of your actions will be helpful.
- Set up a text exchange with any partner, grandparent or other caregiver who does drop off and pick up. Each time someone drops off your child, he or she texts the other people in the group.
- If there is a change of plans relating to a child’s routine, go through the details numerous times with all adults involved. Follow up afterward.
- Install a baby mirror, particularly for rear-facing carseats, that allows you to see your child easily from the driver’s seat.
- When you are home on a hot day, keep your car doors locked to prevent a child from playing in a car.
- Even if the doors are locked, keep your windows open slightly when the car is parked in your driveway. This allows noise to escape and air to circulate.
- Explain to children who are old enough to follow rules that cars are not a place to play. Do not allow children to go into cars on their own.
Lastly, if you see an infant or child in a car alone and cannot find the parent immediately, always take action. Alert authorities and try to enter the vehicle. These accidents, like so many tragic events, can happen to anyone, even the most responsible parents and members of our community. Raising awareness and limiting distraction is key to prevention.
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com. Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland and follow her on Twitter