Although these late-spring temperatures remain bearable, consider their impact on the inside of a parked vehicle whose rolled-up windows and locked doors create the equivalent of a convection oven.
Now think of a helpless child left behind in the heat. Imagine a 15-minute wait in the back seat, 30 minutes, an hour or an afternoon.
The thought is frightening. It is compounded further with the knowledge that it can happen to any responsible parent whose busy, preoccupied mind is taken off the infant or young child for what little time is needed for the unthinkable to occur.
Running late for an appointment. Rushing into the store for just a couple of quick items. Making impromptu arrangements on the cellphone after switching off the ignition. Worrying that time is getting away and the day is passing too quickly.
All give reason to careless acts. Each creates a scenario whose end is doomed to tragedy.
It is why an e-organization calling itself KidsAndCars.org is taking the offensive to remind parents and caregivers of this sobering fact: In May, seven children in this country died of heat stroke after being left in vehicles.
- In El Paso, Texas, a girl (5 months old), died May 10 after her mother, a busy high school teacher, unknowingly left her behind in her SUV.
- In North Carolina, a boy (4) died May 15 after his grandmother forgot to drop him off at daycare.
- In Miami, a boy (11 months) died May 16 after being left in his mother’s car.
- In Dallas, a girl (1) died May 17 after her mother, a busy elementary school teacher, unknowingly left her behind in her car.
- In Corpus Christi, Texas, a boy (1) died May 24 after his uncle forgot to drop him off at daycare.
- In Glen Allen, Va., a boy (18 months) and a girl (2 months) died May 26 when they were left in the car while the mother was at work.
Each child was left by a family member and all but one were under the age of 2.
No matter how careful, and regardless of their depth of love for their babies, any parent can fall victim to this tragedy.
Says Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org which is the leading national nonprofit child safety organization working to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles, “The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that this could never happen to them, that they are not capable of inadvertently leaving their child behind.”
It can happen. And it does happen, even to what Fennell describes as “... the most loving, responsible and attentive parents.”
She cites a few reminders that can help prevent these types of tragedies:
- Put something in the back seat — a cellphone, employee badge, handbag or other items — that will have to be retrieved when leaving the vehicle.
n Keep a stuffed animal in the vehicle and place it in the front passenger seat as a reminder when an infant is in the back seat.
- Ask babysitters or childcare providers to call within 10 minutes if your child has not arrived on time.
- Correctly restrain children in the back seat.
- Focus on driving; avoid cellphone use and texting.
- Establish the habit of always opening a back door after parking to make sure no one has been left behind.
KidsAndCars.org calls it the “Look Before You Lock” educational campaign.
To those who have never experienced such tragedy, it is difficult to comprehend. Yet, it happens. And it happens to good people.
Let nothing be taken for granted.
Let no child be left behind.
A little one’s life is just too precious to be allowed to linger in the balance between busy minds and frantic schedules.