How to prevent ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ and hot car deaths

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graco baby seat
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It’s summer and the mercury is on the rise. That means the unfortunate trend of hot car deaths involving infants and small children is coming to the forefront of national consciousness again.

RELATED: Safety group reveals the 10 most dangerous toys of summer 2018

How to prevent hot car deaths

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42 children died due to vehicular heat stroke last year.

Other numbers suggest there have been more than 700 deaths in total since 1998, according to NoHeatStroke.org.

An analysis of data by the latter organization show the most common circumstance by which a child death occurs is when that child is “forgotten” by caregiver.

As it turns out, forgetting a child in a car seat isn’t strictly a lapse in parental judgment. It’s actually part of a memory issue called “forgotten baby syndrome” that stressed-out parents are likely to face at some time in their lives.

That’s according to a professor of psychology consulted by Consumer Reports.

Technology comes to the rescue

Fortunately, technology can come to the rescue in aiding parents and caregivers to lessen the odds they would every forget a child in a car seat.

For example, the GMC Acadia has a built-in feature called Rear Seat Reminder to remind drivers to check the backseat under certain circumstances.

The Rear Seat Reminder is activated when either rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or while it’s running. Once the vehicle is turned off, the Acadia will sound five audible chimes and display a message to the driver that reads, “Rear Seat Reminder / Look in Rear Seat.”

Other manufacturers are taking a different approach to the same problem. Car seat maker Evenflo, for instance, has a model called the Advanced Embrace DLX.

The car seat’s patented SensorSafe Technology plugs into the diagnostic port of your vehicle. There’s a sensor that links to the chest clip of the car seat. When the clip is closed and the car moves, a Bluetooth link is established. When you turn off the car, the sensor will give off an alert sound to remind you to remove your child.

Apps to help you remember

There are also several apps available to help you remember to take your children out of the car.

The Kars 4 Kids Safety App is free for Android devices. The app syncs with your vehicle’s Bluetooth and will sound an alert when you leave the car to remind you about your child.

kars4kids safety app

In addition, traffic navigation app Waze also has a setting that will remind you to check your backseat when you’re reached the destination entered into the app.

Both of these options are free.

Another free option to check out is TheBackSeat, which is available for both Android and iOS.

Low-tech methods work, too

While technology is all well and good, you shouldn’t overlook basic common sense when it comes to preventing hot car deaths.

KidsAndCars.org has its own list of 10 tips for parents and caregivers to help prevent vehicular heat stroke tragedies. Chief among their recommendations is a tried-and-true classic: Never leave children alone in or around cars — not even for a minute.

If you don’t drop your child off yourself each day, Consumer Reports suggest you set a reminder on your phone to call or text your spouse, partner or caregiver to make sure your child has safely been dropped off at daycare or wherever they’re going for the day.

Ray Ray’s Pledge is an online pledge parents can take that says they’ll promise to notify child-care providers if their child will be late or absent. In addition, childcare providers can also pledge to notify parents if children don’t arrive at their usual drop-off time.

This two-way accountability helps keep children front and center on the minds of both parents and childcare workers to hopefully eliminate hot car deaths.

And remember, if you see a small child in a hot car who is unattended for a length of time, call the police. You may save a life!

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