It can happen to anyone, even the most careful parent. A minor distraction while driving can make you forget a quiet child in the back seat with deadly results.
Each year, about 38 kids die in hot, parked vehicles due to heatstroke. The temperature inside a car can reach 50 degrees warmer than outside. So even a mild day that’s around 60°F (16°C) can turn deadly. And on a hot day, car interiors heat up even faster. With warmer temperatures outside, it’s especially important to keep parked car safety tips in mind.
How can I avoid leaving my child in the car?
Stress, too little sleep, phone calls and changes in routine can all be distracting for caregivers when driving with kids.
For example, if a parent usually drives straight to work but the schedule is different on one day and the child needs to be dropped at daycare first, the parent may forget to take the child to daycare. Trying to get to work on time, the parent may instead head straight to work, leaving the child in the back seat.
Below are ways to help prevent something like this ever happening to your child. Always take precautions, especially when there’s a change in your schedule.
Before you get in the car:
- Put your cell phone, purse, briefcase or something else you’ll need in the backseat with your child so you’ll have to open the back door when you arrive.
- Place a stuffed animal in the front seat when your child’s in the rear as a reminder. You can keep it in the booster seat or elsewhere in the car the rest of the time.
- Schedule follow-up calls. If you’re supposed to drop your child some place, ask someone (like your spouse or partner) to call you right after drop-off time to check in. If a caregiver is driving your child, call that person shortly after their scheduled arrival time to follow up.
- Set an alarm on your cell phone with a different ringtone for the time you’re supposed to arrive. Put your child’s name in the description.
When you’re in the car:
- Set your GPS for your destination and have it talk you through the trip. This can help you avoid stopping off somewhere else.
- Speak with your child during the drive. This can help you remember your child is in the car.
- Don’t use a phone or hands-free device while driving. Listening to a voicemail or having a conversation with someone other than your child could distract you.
When you arrive. Open the back door whenever you park, even if your child isn’t in the back. By making this action a routine, you’ll check when your child really is there.
Share this information with caregivers, grandparents and anyone who’ll drive your child so everyone knows how to keep kids safe.
To learn more about keeping kids safe in the car and on the road, go to Nemours KidsHealth.org:
Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: June 2023