You hear about it far too often — a child dies of heatstroke after being left alone in the car on a hot summer day. How can a parent possibly forget about the baby in the back seat?
It happens more often than you might think. In 2015, 24 U.S. children died from vehicular heatstroke, and as of this writing, four U.S. children have already died in 2016 (noheatstroke.org).
It also happens a lot more easily than you might think. An exhausted mom forgets about her baby on board as she brings in groceries and her mind is focused on planning dinner. Or the schedule has changed, and Dad’s in charge of picking up the tot from day care, a task he normally doesn’t do. Distractions are everywhere, and if you’re tired, stressed, or confused over changes in your daily routine, you can forget about kiddos in the backseat — especially if he’s in a rear-facing carrier and you can’t see his face in the mirror as a reminder.
What’s the Risk?
Babies are especially at risk in a hot car. When chilled or overheated, grown-ups have a very efficient internal system that prompts them to shiver or sweat and adjust their body temperature accordingly. But that system isn’t fully developed in infants, making it harder for them to adapt and regulate their body temps. Couple that with the fact that the interior of a car can reach 120 degrees on an 80-degree day, and you have the perfect setting for tragedy.
Car manufacturers have little to offer in the way of smart technology that reminds drivers of their backseat passengers. The non-profit Kids and Cars has pushed for “child-left-behind” regulations and technology in cars, but so far, no legislation has passed, leaving it to other innovators to fill the gap:
Evenflo offers a car seat with Sensorsafe Technology — a series of tones activated by a chest clip and wireless receiver reminds parents about baby in the backseat, or if the clip becomes detached while driving. It retails for approximately $150 at Wal-Mart or online at evenflo.com.
Driver’s Little Helper is a car seat monitor that syncs with smartphones and sends alerts about movement in the car seat, and can message family and friends in case of emergency. It retails for $79.99 at driverslittlehelper.com.
Baby Alert International sells ChildMinder Soft Clip and Elite Pad systems, both of which send drivers alerts after eight seconds if the driver has moved more than 15 feet away from their child in the car seat. They sell for approximately $70 – $100 at babyalert.info.
SafeKids.org offers low-tech approaches, like using a mirror so you can see your baby’s face while he rides in a rear-facing car seat. Or, put your phone or other important item in the back seat so you have to check before locking up the car. Some parents find that keeping a stuffed animal in the front seat with them as they drive serves as a good reminder, or a sticker reading “Baby in Back!” placed on the rearview mirror is a simple and priceless fix.
Whatever you do, high-tech or low, if it helps you to remember the precious cargo riding along with you, you’re ready to hit the road.