Every time I do a car seat or booster seat check, I spend a little time at the end talking about vehicular heatstroke. Whether we’ve got a line of families waiting for their turn or nobody queued up, I take the time to have the following conversation:
Every year in the US, an average of 37 children perish when they’re left in vehicles. Most of those are left in those vehicles by accident. A portion of those children are left in those vehicles on purpose — say Mom goes into a store or something like that. Another portion of those 37 deaths happens when preschoolers go back into an unlocked car to get a toy they’ve left behind and find themselves trapped in a car they can’t open.
Most of the families I meet with are expecting their first child any day now so it’s often a bit of a mind shift to mention their not-yet-born child being a preschooler. But it’s important to mention all of these heartbreaking scenarios because they all happen every year.
I move on to suggest a few things:
Look before you lock. Before leaving your vehicle, take a moment to walk around it and look into the backseat. Make sure your child isn’t there. Expectant parents are about to be tired in ways they can’t yet fathom. I encourage them to build this visual check into their routine before the child arrives so it’s habit by the time that elated newborn exhaustion kicks in.
Lock before you leave. Before leaving your vehicle, take a moment to lock it so that curious preschooler can’t gain access to the vehicle.
Make a plan. I also suggest working with your partner or spouse to come up with a check-in method that works for you.
It took our family almost 10 years to forget a child somewhere. We both thought the other was on duty for pickup that day; it wasn’t until another parent called to say she had our daughter with her that we knew we’d made a mistake. Now, we check in with each other before the end of each school day to confirm who’ll be picking up whom that day.
These simple steps can help prevent an entirely preventable tragedy. Take a moment now to make these tasks part of your routine. It could save a life!