(OUR VIEW) It seems unthinkable but keeps happening: Don’t leave kids in a hot car

Published 10:30 am Friday, June 2, 2023

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Every year, we read stories where children die because adults accidentally left them in a hot car.

It’s an unimaginable tragedy, difficult for most parents to even comprehend. But yet it keeps happening.

As we mark June on the calendar, there have already been numerous incidents.

In Washington last week, a 1-year-old died after being left in a car for nine hours as a foster mother worked a shift at a local hospital.

In Florida, an 11-month-old died because the baby was left in the car for three hours as the parents attended a church service.

The National Safety Council states that on average, “38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle” each year, though the number fluctuates anywhere from the 20s to the 50s. Even one is too many.

Many of these incidents occur when a morning doesn’t go as planned or when a routine is thrown off. 

An extra stop, a detour, getting up later than expected, a doctor’s appointment before running to the office, an email from your boss asking for a last-second request — something typically occurs that knocks you off your routine. 

We all have mornings like that, where we forget a mundane task because something unexpected comes up. We think that’s VERY different than forgetting a child, but in many of these cases, parents forget to drop their young child off at daycare and instead speed into work.

We think taking an extra step each day to ensure your child isn’t in the vehicle is a good idea, even for the best of parents. Children are naturally curious, and they learn quickly. Parents have been surprised to find their child in their vehicle before too.

One idea is just to make a habit, every single time, to get into a routine of checking your backseats, even if your child isn’t with you.

You could also keep something you need in the backseat — wallet, purse, briefcase, laptop bag, etc. — so that you have to open up your rear doors each time you get where you’re going.

Some prefer a stuffed animal swap. Every time they take a child out of a car seat, they put a stuffed animal in their place. When the child gets back in, the stuffed animal goes back into the front of the vehicle. Theoretically, that means every time the stuffed animal is in the front of the car, a child is in his/her car seat.

Never, under any circumstances, should a small child be left alone in a vehicle.  But when the temperature outside is in the 70s or 80s, it’s estimated the inside temperature of the car is 40 degrees higher or more. For young children, that can turn deadly in a hurry.

The same goes for pets.  During the summer months on a normal hot day, rolling the windows down just isn’t enough for your furry friends. Don’t leave them in that situation.

The heat is too much for all of us, so take steps to ensure your children aren’t left in a car during these summer months.

It seems like something that won’t happen, but yet it continues to happen to families every summer over and over.