HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Wednesday afternoon, emergency crews were called to the parking lot of Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal. A 7-month-old child died in an employee's vehicle after being left there during the work day.
Investigators say all indications are the incident was an accident.
Many on social media have asked the same question: "How?" While others are professing: "It could never happen to me."
There are certainly cases, including that of Justin Ross Harris, where investigators determined the child may have been left in the vehicle intentionally. However, that is not the norm. Most of these incidents are just terrible mistakes.
Since 1990, at least 775 children have died of vehicular heat stroke, according to KidsAndCars.org’s tracking of these incidents:
It is all too easy for a loving, doting caregiver to inadvertently leave a child behind. Their minds are fatigued and stressed. And because of a catastrophic but common failure, the brain’s “habit” memory overrides the “prospective” memory. They innocently forget.
So, what can be done?
“Look before you lock”
Parents and caregivers must get in the habit of checking the back seat every time they arrive at a destination. Many experts suggest leaving something in the back seat that you'll need when you arrive at your destination. This could include a wallet, cell phone, handbag or employee badge.
Products Available for Purchase
Smart car seats: Evenflo's SensorSafe Car Seat includes technology that will remind the driver if a child is left alone in a vehicle.
Wireless Proximity Sensors: Several companies have come up with a solution that pairs a key fob with a sensor that works within the car seat. When the two are separated for too long, an alarm will sound. Driver's Little Helper works similarly, but works with the caregiver's cell phone.
Teddy Bear Baby
Another solution some suggest is using a teddy bear in the child's car seat when it's not in use. When you put the child in the seat, move the bear (or other stuffed toy) into the passenger seat. That way, you have a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
Make a Phone Call
You may also want to make arrangements with the child's daycare or babysitter to call if your child doesn't arrive by a certain time.
GMC has launched a Rear Seat Reminder on its newest models of Acadia SUVs.
“Acadia’s Rear Seat Reminder is a simple feature designed to do exactly what its name suggests,” says John Capp, director of General Motors’ Global Vehicle Safety Group. “While it does not detect the presence of rear-seat passengers or child seats, under certain conditions it can provide a simple, extra reminder to drivers to take another look inside their vehicle.”
KidsandCars.org offers several safety tips for parents and caregivers to prevent heat stroke tragedies.