Already this year, the Bay Area has lost a 9-month-old boy to heatstroke after he was accidentally left in the car while his dad spent a long day at work. Tragically, we hear these reports every year. It seems that there are two primary factors in incidents like these. The first, as in this case, is simply human error; someone is responsible for transporting a child somewhere, but forgets and leaves the child in the car. The second is, surprisingly, intentionally leaving the child in a car…apparently underestimating the risk of heat-related injury, kidnapping, etc.
In a recent survey by Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, D.C., “6% of the parents surveyed (more than 840,000 parents with nearly 1.5 million children) are comfortable letting their young children stay in a parked, locked vehicle for longer than 15 minutes”. If parents think, even for a minute, that this is okay, they need to be better informed. Child care programs can help with this by providing educational materials, having a parent workshop, and monitoring their own parking lots.
In the case of children being forgotten in vehicles, there are a few simple suggestions:
- Put in the backseat of your vehicle something that you will need when you exit—your cell phone, your laptop, etc.
- Put a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when the child is not in it. When the child is in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to the front seat to remind you that the child is in the back.
- Make a habit of opening your back door and looking in every time you exit your vehicle. “Look before you lock.”
One thing that child care providers can do to help parents avoid a tragic mistake is to insist that a parent contact us if their child will not be in care that day. In response, if the child does not arrive at the expected time, we call the parent(s) to inquire about the child. Try to make contact with a parent rather than just leaving a voice mail.
We also need to make sure that our own program policies include steps to ensure that we don’t accidentally leave a child unattended in a vehicle. If you don’t already have a Transportation Policy, you can check ours out here.