The usual Monday morning scramble was on at top speed.
On my way to work, I drove my son to his preschool parking lot, remembering to stop mindfully at each ‘Stop’ sign. No rolling stops, no matter how tempting when in a rush.
As he stepped off the car and I turned to grab his Lightning McQueen backpack, my son said something softly, but it was enough to catch my attention.
“Mom, there’s a baby crying…alone in that car,” he said, as he pointed to a sedan parked next to ours.
For a second, I froze. Then, instinct followed.
The car was running, and it was a relatively cool Arizona morning. About 70 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take. Not bad for late September.
I checked to see if the car was unlocked. It was. The baby, about nine months old, was crying and wincing as the bright morning rays directly hit his face. I quickly looked around and saw a mom nearby, looking on inquisitively.
I asked her to inform the school authorities. She ran inside.
I reached in to check the baby’s temperature. His arm felt cool. The air conditioner was running.
I felt a surge of relief and anger. This was clearly a rushed parent, trying to drop off the older sibling, while avoiding the hassle of taking the younger one out of his car seat.
But how could anyone leave a baby alone in a car with its engine on, in the middle of a big and busy parking lot?
Clearly, and unfortunately, it happens more often than you might imagine. But can anyone afford to take such a risk? Especially in places as hot as Arizona? Or someone could have just driven off with the baby still in there.
Leaving children unattended inside a vehicle, even for a minute, can be dangerous. Extreme temperatures that build up inside a closed vehicle can quickly become fatal for children.
The Banner Children’s Injury Prevention experts note in this informative piece that children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. Heat stroke, which can cause permanent brain injury or death, occurs when a child’s core body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
Don’t be fooled by seemingly cool weather outside.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, even when the outside temperature is in the 60s, it can cause the temperature inside a car to shoot up beyond 110 degrees very quickly. Just as an example, if it's 83 degrees outside and the window is rolled down two inches, the inside temperature in a car can still hit 109 degrees within 15 minutes.
So remember to never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. As the Banner Children’s injury prevention experts note, children left unattended in a vehicle are at risk of being kidnapped, or, older ones can push buttons, disengage the brakes, put the car in gear or leave the vehicle and walk away.
In case you’re one of those people who worry about forgetting a baby in the back seat, they have some handy car safety tips:
- Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag, work ID or whatever is to be carried from the car on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This forces the adult to open the back door and observe the child when they reach for their belongings.
- Set your cell phone to remind you to be sure you dropped your child off at day care.
- Have a plan so that if your child is late for day care, you will be called within a few minutes. Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off little kids at day care.
- Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
- Lock all vehicle doors and trunk – especially at home. Cars are not playgrounds.
- Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child goes missing.
In this instance, the dad came out within a couple of minutes. The other mom made the dangers of his actions clear to him.
A lesson learned for him – a good reminder for me.
Also read: Car Safety Tips