Happy July. In Seattle that usually means that summer is soon to arrive. For the rest of the US, I know, it has already begun. Ever since last week though, I have thought about July differently. I was midway through this post last Friday when I was forced to abandon it. Overwhelmed by the article I read, I wrote about sighing. I’ve now taken a big sigh… But this information has not left me. Today, we enter July, the month out of the year in which more US children die after being left (and trapped) in hot cars, than any other. Windows up and forgotten, these children die of hyperthermia and overheating. They overheat, cry for help, and are left unheard. It’s unthinkable, really. 18 children have already died this year, 8 of them in the first two weeks of June. Unfortunately, now that two weeks has passed, this statistic has likely changed.
This utterly alarming trend has caught the attention of safety experts. And mine. We all need to create systems in our life to prevent this from happening. Make a system to check the back seat of your car every single time you walk away from it. Kids in it or not.
You can read right over this stuff feeling like it’s irrelevant.
You’re thinking, this will never happen to me. No way would I forget my kid in the car. Before you convince yourself, read this 2010 Pultizer Prize winning article by Gene Weingarten published in March, 2009. It has changed my life; It is the most devastating article I’ve read all year. I’m not overstating this. The handful of others that I have had read this say the very same. Share it with anyone who will ever drive a child in a car seat or booster seat, anywhere.
What was so staggering about his article was the fact that this could happen to any of us. The problem of children being left in sweltering cars has increased since we have mandated that young children sit in the back seat for safety. The problem of forgetting a child in the car crosses state, racial, socioeconomic, and education lines. This can happen to any of us.
The article made me shutter because as I ramp up the list of my responsibilities, I become more and more overwhelmed by life’s moment-to-moment tasks. And I’m certainly more forgetful. For example, in the last month in our home we’ve:
- Left half empty milk sippy cups in the car for days at a time. We call them dead milk bottles for a reason…
- Left the keys to our house hanging in the keyhole in the front door. (Don’t get any wise ideas; we’ve learned our lesson)
- Left the keys on the roof of the car.
- Missed a haircut appointment. Plain and simple, got distracted by the day and forgot to go.
I know, this is a little, “Good grief, Mama Doc, get it together.” But really, these seemingly silly examples of forgetfulness in the world of overwhelming-rearing-child-working-full time illustrate a point. We’re all running around at a pace not necessarily ideal for constant thoughtfulness. As the article mentions, stress may really change the way our brain works.
We’re all distracted. Not just when we’re driving or trying to make dinner, while talking on the phone, but when we’re weaving through our simple tasks of daily life. Between my iphone-e-mail-text messages-patients to see- patients to call back-friend’s birthday reminder-alarm to pay the phone-early morning meeting-and the need to remember that F likes milk in the green cup and O likes milk in the purple, many things are getting forgotten.
God forbid it leads to a devastating mistake.
Tips To Avoid The Unthinkable—Ways To Avoid Leaving Your Baby Or Child In A Hot Car:
- Every time you get out of the car, learn to check the backseat. Somehow, make it one of those things you do without thinking. Start today. Walk back to the car if you don’t do it the first time when you walk away. Make it a route task like putting on your seat belt.
- Consider buying an alarm like NASA engineers created to help you. Here’s one. I don’t endorse this per se, because I’ve never used it, but rather link to it as an example of what technology is out there.
- Share this story by Gene Weingarten with your friends and family. Talking about this story will help affirm its message.