As parents, we’re exhausted, juggling a million things, and often lose track of how long our little ones have been outside inside a hot car with steadily rising temperatures. But prolonged heat exposure in a hot car can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. Young children are at higher risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.
On average, one child dies every 10 days in our country due to heatstroke in a vehicle, according to BayCare. And for every child who dies, hundreds more are rescued.
“Even on a cloudy day, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise 20-30 degrees in 10 minutes. And cracking a window doesn’t help,” said BayCare Kids Wellness and Safety Specialist Michelle Sterling. “Heatstroke can happen anytime, anywhere. Help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”
Understanding how easy it is to forget doesn’t make you a bad parent; in fact, the good news is that realizing it can happen to you is the #1 way of preventing it. With Florida ranked as the warmest state year-round, caretakers need to put their best heat forward to ensure our little ones stay safe as Florida gets back into the swing of its extra-long summer.
7 car seat safety tips to ensure baby NEVER gets left behind in the car:
Leave something in the backseat that you absolutely need to leave your vehicle
This could include anything from your purse/briefcase to your cell phone to your shoe (my personal favorite). Choose an item in your daily routine that you cannot live without.
Practice using the “Stuffed Animal Swap Method”
This one is popular. Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when they’re not in the car. When they are, put the stuffed animal up in the front seat with you. If you’re a visual person, a bright pink monkey may do just the trick.
Set up a touch base with your child’s caretaker for all drop-offs
It’s especially easy to get distracted when you take turns in your drop-off routine. Once your child is dropped off, have their caretaker shoot you a quick text. Set a daily alarm on your phone so you can make sure you received it.
Make it a habit to check your entire car before hitting the “lock” button
Just take a quick walk around. It takes 10 seconds, max; you’ll be glad you did.
Pay attention to what has your attention—and make a shift
Waiting at a red light on your way to daycare? Instead of checking your work email, try making the trip a fun experience for both you and baby. Sing, talk, play I-spy—anything that will engage them in the car. Think of every ride as a mini parent-child road trip; you’re bound to remember a child you can hear.
Don’t be afraid to use technology
There is truly an app for everything. Try two crowd favorites to stay in the know:
- The Backseat: created by an Arizona dad to keep forgetfulness away on your busiest days
- Waze: a popular download that recently introduced Child Reminders to get your alert on
Always keep your car locked to make sure kiddos don’t use it for hide-and-seek
Kids play, and we want to encourage exploration, but make sure they understand the car is not a place to play. It’s easy—and potentially catastrophic—for a little one to lock himself in a hot car. Lock your car after you get out, every time, just in case.
Bonus points: Keep those keys out of reach from 5-year-olds who think they can operate the keyless remote better than you can.
To help prevent heatstroke injury or fatalities, BayCare Kids reminds parents and families to ACT.
A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not inside so kids don’t get in on their own.
C: Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place and secure your phone, briefcase, or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child.
T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
*Originally published the May 2019 edition of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine. Updated in May 2022.
About the Author: Your go-to for car seat safety and fellow local mom, Michelle Pratt makes the most dangerous thing our kids do in a day (and one of the most complicated to get right) less overwhelming and easier to understand. Follow her on Instagram for her #mondaymisuse posts where she helps all parents with a common car seat misuse, why it matters, and actions to take to fix it! Michelle’s website details her background, why she is so passionate about this cause, and service packages for helping families ensure their precious cargo is safe in the seat. Visit her site: www.safeintheseat.com or follow her on Instagram @safeintheseat.