How Can We Prevent These Tragedies? a.k.a. How to Jog Your Good Brain and Help Others
1. Set an Alert on your computer, phone, or Blackberry: From my own vault of experience while working with a baby in daycare—I set an alert on my computer to go off every 15 minutes from about 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. That way no matter when I got to work there was a message on my screen when I arrived that said … Are you sure Sophia is not in the car?
2. Place a sticker on your car: That sticker should ask “Where is your child?” or say “Kids Should not be Left In Cars” or maybe “Don’t Forget Me!” This is also a good reminder to count your kids before you leave the house. WAY too many kids get run over every year because parents thought they were in the car or in the house. You can get some stickers and magnets for your car from Forget Me Not or you could make your own. As long as you see and remember.
3. Place a sticker on the door/entrance of your workplace and your home. Your workplace should be happy to oblige you! If you miss it on your car, you will be reminded again when you get to the door. On your house, this is simple. Parents leave kids in the car at home. They also accidentally leave their kids at home when they leave in the car. I assume you lock and unlock your doors or at least use the handle to open or close it—this should be a reminder either way.
4. Place a large stuffed animal in the car seat when it is unoccupied. When you put your child in, put the animal in the front seat. This is a visual reminder, says Jannette Fennell of Kids and Cars. Then when you leave make it a habit to get your child out and replace the animal in the back.
5. Put things you need for your activity in the back seat. You have things you always take with you that you would usually have or need when you got to where you were going. If you were supposed to drop your child off you would notice when you went to grab your purse in the back seat and saw your sleeping child. And, unlike your child, who you would have thought you dropped off, you will miss your purse as soon as you go for your cup of coffee, to make a purchase, to put away your phone. If you get in the habit, you will always be checking your back seat for your valuables.
6. Leave the Diaper Bag / Kid Supplies in the Front Seat. This is similar to the above, but is another idea to really make sure everything is in the wrong place so that you WILL know if your child is in the car and you WILL NOT forget them if you go to pick up your purse and see a diaper bag and then reach in the back and see your child.
7. Regularly Communicate with your Childcare Provider. This is a great idea anyway. Keep your childcare provider, be it a nanny or a daycare or a home facility, aware of your plans. Let them know what time you will be dropping off and ask them to contact you if they do not see your child at that time. When you are looking for childcare, make sure this is something they will do.
8. Get an alarm for your car seat. I actually think auto manufacturers should have alarms installed on each back seat that test for weight. Since this is not yet available on any cars that I know of you can use something like the Baby Alert Child Minder System. This retails for $69.95. It is a pad that goes in the seat and an alarm that goes on your key chain. If you walk more than 15 feet from the car while the child is in the seat. The alarm will sound. This will also make sure you do not run into gas stations or grocery stores, even in the winter, because that could get your child killed too. Many states have a ZERO seconds law that means no child may be left in car for any number of seconds. Good stuff. You could also use the Cars-N-Kids Car Seat Monitor. This monitor also senses the weight of the child, but it plays a lullaby whenever the car stops, reminding you that you have a baby in the car. This retails for $39.95.
9. Spread the Word. The more people who know how this can happen and how fast it can happen and that it could, in reality, happen to them, the more people will take some of these simple steps to make sure it does not happen. I thought maybe I will print 100 stickers and give them to my mommies group. Maybe I will hand some out at temple or church. Maybe I will include them in the goodie bags for Sophia’s party with a little note. This is not rude. This is not spoiling someone’s good time. It is possibly saving a life—many lives in reality—from being destroyed. Be open to talking about the hard times all parents have juggling their kids with their lives and their jobs, especially new parents who are adjusting to the changes and the lack of sleep and the car seats and the drop offs and all of the things that come at you the minute that baby comes out. The more open, the more people will know, and the more they will think before they lock their car and walk away from their beautiful child.
10. Look Around. Peek in Parked Cars. You are not some Peeping Tom. You are just casually walking by and glancing in back seats. I have seen kids in cars outside a grocery store before. Not a gas station (not that it matters) but a big grocery store. It can take twenty minutes to “run in and out” of a huge store. The mother walked out to her car as I was approaching a security guard to let him know. It was near 90 degrees outside. Had the doors not been locked I swear I would have opened them. We have a zero second law here so I would have been fine doing that, or calling 911 or probably breaking a window. People DO leave their kids. They do not always remember, or they think they will be right back, or they don’t know how dangerous it really is. If you notice a child and get that car open you may well save his or her life. That is worth a few weird glances your way. As a note, look in particular (or find a security guard to look) if you see or hear a car alarm going off but no one is around it. Some cars have motion detectors that will go off when they sense movement within and were locked using the key fob.
Don’t they say it takes twenty-eight days to form a habit? Some things may seem silly or too simple but they are meant to insert a new basics routine in that dumb part of your brain that you will do even when you are the most tired the most stressed or the most out of your normal routine. They are meant to train you to remember your child, and harsh as that sounds, it is a good reminder for all of us.
I hope that you find some of these suggestions useful for you or someone you know with small children. Please remember to treat your vehicle as a dangerous object and not let children of any age near it to play or explore. Older kids get locked in cars accidentally themselves. Kids from toddlers on up can start cars and accidentally drive them. And babies can be forgotten.
Thank you for listening, thank you for sharing, thank you for loving your children and for keeping them safe.
Originally published by Mommy Words on September 4, 2009.
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