(KPIX 5) — It’s every busy parent’s worst nightmare – the morning rush to get out the door and get to work, only to realize hours later your child is not at day care but instead strapped into the car seat right where you left her, sweltering in the back seat of a hot car.
So far this year 19 children have died of heat stroke in cars. Jan Null of the Golden Gate Weather service says no one is immune to forgetting, even good parents.
“From hospital administrators to principals to people who run daycare centers, otherwise really good parents in a distracted state,” said Null. “They (all can) accidentally leave the child in the vehicle.”
Since 1998, Null has compiled extensive data on child heat stroke death in cars – 600 deaths in all.
Airbags changed the game in the late 1990’s, with children getting moved to the back seat for safety, presenting an extra risk factor for distracted parents.
“So now all of a sudden little children are in the back seat,” pointed out Null. “And they aren’t visible anymore.”
Adding to the issue is the relatively new recommendation that car seats stay rear facing until a child is two years old. So Mom and Dad may not have a clear view of baby, even when they look into their car’s rear view mirror.
So, what steps can a parent or a caregiver take to ensure they don’t forget their little one is riding with them? Null suggested to leave a reminder like a key fob, wallet or even a phone next to baby in the back seat. Another trick – leave a stuffed animal in the car seat when the seat is not being occupied by baby…and leave the same stuffed animal in the vehicle’s front seat when baby is strapped in and riding along.
But, Null cautions that even if a parent or caregiver is convinced they would never leave a child in the car, that does not mean they are immune. A third of the children found dead in cars crawled in on their own while a caregiver was not looking.
“If a child is missing, check the pool first,” said Null. “Then check all vehicles including (the vehicles) trunks.”