Every 10 days a baby or child dies of heat stroke after climbing into or being left in a car that grew deadly hot as the day went on. Think that could never happen to you? You’re just the parent or mom-to-be who is most at risk for leaving your child in a car, says Janette E. Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org.

On her website, Fennell shares stories of parents – incredible, doting and devastated professionals who love their children – who have dealt with the heartbreak and criminal charges that follow when a child dies of heat stroke after being left in a hot car.

How does the typical parent forget he or she has an infant or child in the car?
The worst possible thing is to think “this could never happen to me” because you don’t put the safety steps in place to prevent it. There’s the unintentional leaving – you forget you have the child in the car – and then there’s what I call the pop-in parent: you leave your kid in the car while you just … you fill in the blank.

Even if you’re at the gas station and you’re just running in to pay, kids are getting into the driver’s seat, putting cars into gear, getting strangled in power windows and abducted, not to mention dying when temperatures in the car climb well over 100 degrees in just a few minutes on a typical summer day.

One mom left her little one napping in her car in the garage. She checked on him every 5 minutes but he woke up, got into the power window and strangled himself. She thought she was being so careful in regularly checking on him.

Parents who leave their child in a car can face criminal charges, yes?
Fifteen states have laws that make it illegal to leave a child alone in a vehicle. As a parent you can be charged with child endangerment or neglect, and you can have your child taken from you.

What about devices that help you remember your child is in the car?
There are several things that have been invented to help you remember you have a child in the car, including a stretchy cord from you to the car seat, but we have 3 iron-clad suggestions:

1. Put something you need next to your infant seat: Your purse, lunch, cell phone, briefcase, etc. Get into the habit of opening your back doors each time you get out of your car.

2. Stage a reminder: Now that babies and kids are sitting rear-facing up to age 2 what we see of a rear-facing car seat looks the same whether it’s full or empty. Keep a stuffed animal or a note card that says “Got Sally {insert baby’s name}?” in the seat when it’s empty and move it to the front passenger seat when you put your child in the car.

3. Put a back-up policy in place with your childcare provider or school: Have them call you any time your child is late or absent. Give them every number possible and ask them to call each one to let you know your child is not there. So many kids get left in cars when parents change their routine and head straight to the office or home.

Keep Kids Safe Around Cars

  • Always leave something you need next to your child
  • Never leave a child alone in a car – ever
  • Call 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a car
  • Set an alarm on your watch or cell phone to remind you to check your car for your child

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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