Since 1998, more than 800 babies and children in the U.S. have died after being left in a hot car. The State of Virginia recognizes that the challenge of keeping children safe has been impacted by the new law requiring children sit in rear-facing car seats until they reach age two (2) or meet certain weight requirements.
“Children need to be in the back seat of the car. It isn’t recommended that a child ride in front with you until they are age 13,” says Bethany McCunn of the Virginia Department of Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Unit.
It’s hard, she acknowledges, to always remember you have a new member of your family in the back seat as the car seat can keep babies completely hidden from view.
“As a new parent, you are tired, you have a lot going on, you are trying to juggle everything including going back to work in probably a sleep deprived state. And you may not see the baby because the seat faces backwards,” says McCunn.
What to do to keep babies safe and not forgotten in either hot or freezing cold cars?
- Put something in the back seat that you wouldn’t leave your car without, such as your phone, wallet or purse. “Some people put one shoe back there because they aren’t going to get out and walk around wearing one shoe,” says McCunn.
- Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When you put your child in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to the passenger seat as a visual reminder.
- Ask your child’s preschool or daycare to call you if they are not dropped off at the normal time.
- Always keep your vehicle locked when not in use, keep keys out of reach of children, and teach children that the car is not a play area.
Remember that it is never okay to leave a child in a car unattended. Even for things like running into the convenience store, or going back inside the house to grab something, “If you’re out of arm’s reach you’re probably too far,” says McCunn.