Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Never Looking Back!

I have a confession to make.  Well, actually, my husband Rick has a confession to make, and I’m going to make it for him.  When my daughter Sarah was a month old, the grandparents came out for a visit, and we decided to go out for dinner.  We couldn’t all fit in one car, so Rick and my dad took Sarah, while I rode with my mom and 2-year-old son.  As the two men walked through the doors of the restaurant, my husband turned to my dad and said, “Where’s the baby?”  Grandpa’s answer?  “What baby?”  A look of panic crossed both their faces as they dashed back to the parking lot to rescue her from the July sun.   Ever since that incident, if my hubby asks me to change the baby’s diaper, or put him down for a nap, and I’m feeling particularly put out, all I have to do is shoot him a quelling look and say, “What baby?”

As amusing as this episode seems now, the tragedy is that the number of deaths in children who have been inadvertently left in hot cars has been rising significantly in the U.S.  Just a couple of weeks after I posted an entry about forward vs. rear-facing carseats, the San Jose Mercury News posted a front page story noting that the rise in heat deaths appeared in the mid-1990’s, around the same time that warnings were issued to move children to the back seat, to avoid airbag injuries.  ("Tragic consequences of car-safety push"). The number of deaths due to airbags dropped significantly, but the total number of deaths skyrocketed, as more children died from heatstroke:

There are probably other explanatory factors, such as increased parental distraction related to texting and smartphone use.  While the data doesn’t prove cause and effect, it’s certainly compelling.  And with the recent recommendation that children be left rear-facing until at least 24 months, doesn’t it stand to reason that heatstroke deaths will rise even further? 


  1. You make a compelling argument for correlating those two events, but your data don't show the age of the kids. It would be far more convincing to me if infants were split out from children old enough to open a manual car window -- that curve also happens to coincide with the years automatic electric windows (which children can't open themselves, so children have stopped even thinking about opening windows themselves when the car is stopped) went from being in the minority of cars to being standard.

    While further preventing injuries to children in forward-facing seats in accidents is a tough technological challenge, a technological fix to notifying parents, passersby, or even 911 that a child is in the seat of a non-moving, too hot car is relatively simple and low-cost.

  2. P.S. Automatic electric windows are themselves the cause of the same order of deaths every year.

    (I am not trying to publish as "Unknown" by the way, I can't figure out how to post using my name!)

  3. I;ve thought about posting "Top 10 Things You Never Thought You'd Have to Worry about as a Parent," listing power window strangulation as one of them, but since part of my mission is to decrease parental fear and anxiety, I'll hold off on that topic until I've posted more positive entries!

  4. Did you know the safest place for a baby is the front-seat (with the airbags disabled)? When rear-facing from that position, baby is not likely to be forgotten because they're looking at you the whole time. Babies who have older siblings are also less likely to be forgotten because the older sibling is back there looking at them.

    There probably will be more babies forgotten unfortunately, because the population has increased in the last 20 years... so it's bound to go up as the population continues to rise.

    But there are very simple solutions. A car-seat teddy-bear. Teddy rides in the car-seat when baby doesn't, when baby does Teddy rides next to parent. Visible cue = problem solved. Teddy bears have saved lives. Another easy solution is to put your wallet or purse or cell phone under the car-seat when putting the baby in. Badda-bing Badda-boom, you'll remember to get that when you get out. Nothing high-tech, nothing fancy, just simple measures.