Each year, throughout the country, 37 children die of heatstroke after being left in hot cars.
And while your first thought may be, “that could never happen to me,” experts say that belief could lead to a fatal mistake. Dawn Peabody knows first hand. It was a change in routine that led to the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Maya Peabody.
“October 18th, 2008 was a very un-typical day for us,” Dawn recalls. “Normally on Saturdays my daughter Maya would have gone to work with me. We had family in town so we all went out to breakfast and took three separate vehicles.”
Afterwards, Dawn took the family suburban to work. Maya went with her father, Wes and the other kids piled in with grandma and grandpa.
“My husband, on the way home, stopped to get gas and then when he got home he did what he normally would have done he jumped out of his vehicle, ran inside to play with the kids,” Dawn said. “About an hour later someone asked where is Maya? And then it hit him, ‘Oh my goodness, I exited the vehicle, thought she was with Mom, she's still in the vehicle.’ He ran to our family vehicle and found Maya and unfortunately it was too late.”
Babies now ride rear-facing in the backseat, where they are much safer than the front, however it does present the issue of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. That, coupled with distractions, stress, fatigue and a change in routine is the catalyst for these terrible tragedies.
“The worst mistake anyone can ever make is to think that this could never happen to them or to their family,” said Janette Fennell, Founder & CEO of KidsandCars.org. “That is the biggest mistake, because if you really feel that way, you won't put the safety tips in place that can assure it won't happen to you or your family.”
Parents need reminders for everything, including our kids. Experts recommend when you’re going somewhere with your baby, to put your cell phone, purse or briefcase in the back seat of the car, that way you’ll be sure to check the back seat and remember your child.
“It’s happened to the most caring people you could ever meet who never in a million years dreamed they’d be the cause of their child’s death,” Fennell said.
It’s also important to note that it does not have to be hot out for a child to die of heat stroke in a vehicle. There are reported fatalities when the temperature was 52 degrees outside.