According to the National Safety Council, 37 children die each year in the United States due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH). While rear-facing safety seats installed in the back seat provide young children with optimum protection in a crash, they also take children out of the line of sight of adult drivers. Sleeping children, who make no noise to remind the driver of their presence, are particularly at risk.
Memory is not always as reliable as we believe it to be. If you have ever forgotten a cell phone, purse, or wallet in the car, you are capable of forgetting a child. Children are often forgotten in vehicles on occasions when drivers are stressed, sleep-deprived, or taking an unusual route. These factors disrupt drivers’ routines and allow them to form a false memory of taking the child out of the vehicle. Adults go about their day imagining the child safe and happy wherever he or she is supposed to be.
Child Safety Alarms and Other Reminder Systems
There are several types of alarm systems designed to reduce children’s risk of being left behind in a vehicle. Some use motion or weight sensors to detect a child’s presence; others prompt the driver to check the vehicle thoroughly for children at the end of every trip. Some states require child care providers to install electronic child safety alarms in certain vehicles. These requirements vary depending on the vehicle’s age and seating capacity.
Help Parents Remember Their Children
Many parents and relatives who have forgotten a child in a hot vehicle had intended to drop the child off at child care before driving to work. Make it your policy to contact parents promptly if a child does not arrive at your program when expected. Keep parents’ home, cell, and work numbers on file, as well as the number of at least one alternate contact in case parents are unreachable.
Check Twice After Every Trip
Proper use of a passenger transportation checklist will reduce children’s risk of being forgotten in a child care vehicle. Checking each vehicle twice at the end of every trip will not only ensure your compliance with state regulations, it will help keep children safe.
Always check with your state’s regulations for proper vehicle and transportation procedures. Learn more about transportation and vehicle safety in our Care Course Transportation Safety. After completing Transportation Safety, you will be able to identify legal requirements and best practices for transportation in child care; choose the safest child restraint systems and transportation methods; and explain how to work with parents to ensure their children’s safety in and around vehicles. (Students in Georgia: Our course Georgia Transportation Safety complies with Georgia-specific regulations.)
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