Avoid a tragedy: Check the backseat

Published 10:07 pm Monday, June 22, 2009

Every summer seems to bring a new tragic story about a child who dies after being accidentally left in a car.

“We have to be extremely careful with the hustle and bustle of the time,” said Mark Outlaw, chief of the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue. “Be very cautious. Check your car when you get out.”

Already this year, the number of deaths of children left in overheated cars is up to six across the nation. Even in mild summer weather, a car’s interior overheats quickly, leaving children who cannot or do not know how to escape defenseless against the heat.

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Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Cars, an organization dedicated to preventing non-traffic injuries and deaths of children involving cars, recommends the following tips to avoid leaving a child in the backseat.

4Never leave children alone in or around cars — not even for a minute.

4Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID, lunch or brief case on the floor board in the back seat. Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit.

4Keep a large teddy bear in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the teddy bear in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the teddy bear is up front, you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.

4Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call them if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled. This is common courtesy and sets a good example that everyone who is involved in the care of your child is informed of his whereabouts on a daily basis.

Ask them to phone you if your child doesn’t show up when expected. Many children’s lives could have been saved with a telephone call from a concerned child care provider. Give child care providers all your telephone numbers, including that of an extra family member or friend, so they can always confirm the whereabouts of your child.

4Use drive-through services when available.

4If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If she is hot or seems sick, get her out as quickly as possible. Call 911 immediately.

4Make sure all child passengers have left the vehicle after it is parked.

4Be especially cautious during busy times, schedule changes, periods of stress, crisis or holidays. This is when most incidents of leaving a child in the car occur.