Summer is here: Have you checked your backseat today?

School is out, summer is in. That means lazy days, lake days, work days, no day the same maybe–especially if you’re on vacation and trying back into the groove. Sleeping in happens more often during summer. Kids may be going to day camps or you might have vacation plans. Bottom line: your routine is about to change. And that could mean tragedy for the most vulnerable members of your family.

Mother looking at her baby in child safety seat inside of car

According to a new report published by the National Safety Council on June 6, 2018, 37 children die from being left in hot cars each year on average, and body temperature has a lot to do with it. Children’s bodies heat up much faster than adults’ do, according to the researchers, and children’s internal organs begin to shut down once their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees.

The summer has barely begun and it’s already happened in Canada.

Every time we hear one of these stories our hearts break and think, “WHY?! HOW?!” But there is that small part of our reptilian brains that also smugly thinks, “I would/could never do this. This is a parenting fail and I am not a terrible person who could do this.” We might not say it out loud but we think it–even if we think it for a blink of a second we need to understand that WE COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG.

Forgetting your baby in the backseat of your car is not something only dumb, careless people do. Smart, accomplished people have done this is and the horror and grief they are faced with is unimaginable and it is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

A new warning from the Canada Safety Council quotes a study funded by General Motors of Canada found that within 20 minutes the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exposed to the sun on a 35ºC day (95º F) exceeded 50ºC (122º F). Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 65.5 ºC (150º F). Leaving a window slightly open, or “cracked,” did little to prevent the inside the vehicle from becoming dangerously hot.

As we head into summer vacation mode, routines are about to change. This could mean different childcare schedules, different drop offs, and even different parents or caregivers driving and dropping off children. We have all driven home with no recollection of how we got there. We just do it on autopilot. And it is that autopilot mindset that can kill our most vulnerable.

So how can we fix this? We need to help each other more for starters and be more mindful of our schedules and behaviours. For some, this means putting their purse or computer bag in the bag seat so they have to got back there and will see that a baby is still in the (often rear-facing) carseat. This is tip is meant to outsmart our brains out of autopilot. But is there more we could doing? Short answer, yes.

Here are a few ways we can help our parenting village to not become a member of this terrible club.

  1. Set an alarm in your phone to ping you when you are on route to your daily destination. This alarm can be marked to tell you, “Look in the backseat! Is the baby with you?”
  2. Text your spouse, friend, or a fellow parent upon arrival at your destination to confirm that the backseat and car are child-free and that everyone has been dropped off.
  3. Be aware of the back seats in your work parking lot or any parking lots for that matter. If you come across a child or animal in distress that has been left in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1. Never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle, even for a few minutes.
  4. Keep doing 1-3 all summer and for as long as it takes to build a routine where checking the back seat becomes part of your commute. At home, lock vehicles so children cannot get in and go unnoticed by adults.
  5. Tell your village about these tips and start these or build new ones that work for you.

We wish you all a happy and safe summer!





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