NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Saving a child’s life means checking the back seat

A toddler died after she was mistakenly left in a hot car in Brownsburg after her family returned home from church Sunday.

It’s the kind of story that gets reported all too often each year, and we want our readers to be keenly aware of this needless loss of life and how to

prevent it.

The parents of the 21-month-old girl and their four other children took naps when they got home from church, apparently all thinking someone else had taken the child out of the car seat and brought her in the house, the Associated Press reported. The outside temperature was in the low 80s, but the temperature inside the car proved deadly. The interior of a car can exceed the outside temperature by up to 50 degrees and can rise 80 percent above its beginning temperature in 30 minutes.

Efforts to revive the child after two hours failed. She was the second such fatality in Indiana this year. A 3-year-old boy died in a hot car in Evansville

on July 9.

Our immediate reaction is to say incredulously, “How can anyone forget to take their child out of their car?” Moreover, how could anyone purposely leave a child in a hot car alone for any length of time at all?

Yet on average, 37 children die in hot cars each year in the U.S., according to KidsAndCars.org. So far this year, 36 have died. The truth is, even the most conscientious parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping child in a car.

A 37-year-old mother in Goodyear, Ariz., had been in a Target store for a half hour on Friday, she told police, when she realized she had left her 5-month-old daughter in the back seat of her car while the temperature outside was 100 degrees. When she realized what she’d done, she called 911.

The mother, her sister and her 6-year-old daughter had all gone into the store to shop. Fortunately, the baby survived and is OK. “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know how it happened. I don’t,” the mother told an officer after she was arrested.

How, indeed?

Dr. Rosina McAlpine, a parenting expert and CEO of Win Win Parenting, told Fox News that 429 children died from heatstroke in cars from 1998 to 2018. She said parents or caregivers in such cases are often hurrying to work or someplace else and may “forget they haven’t dropped the child off at daycare or school and rush off to the meeting or work distracted, leaving their child behind.”

McAlpine pointed out that an analysis from NoHeatStroke.org shows 53.8 percent of those 429 deaths from 1998 to 2018 were forgotten by their caregivers. In 151 of those cases, McAlpine said, children were intentionally left in hot cars, usually because the child was asleep and the caregiver planned to hurry back after finishing some errand.

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics that perhaps we should all tape to our

car’s dashboard:

• Always check the back seat of the car before locking it and walking away.

• Be extra alert when there is a change in your routine, such as when someone else is driving your child or you take a different route to work or child care.

• Have your child care provider call if your child

is more than 10 minutes late.

• Put your cell phone, bag, or purse in the back seat, so you’ll be sure to check the back seat when you arrive.

• If someone else is driving your child, check to make sure they have arrived safely.

• Keep your car locked when it is parked to prevent a curious child from entering. Many hot car deaths have occurred when children mistakenly lock themselves inside.