‘Forgotten Baby Syndrome’ (FBS), or as I prefer to call it, ‘Forgotten BACKSEAT Baby Syndrome’, is a relatively new danger to child passenger safety that results in fatal child vehicular heatstroke in greater than 99 percent of cases. FBS is the leading origin of child vehicular heatstroke cases. It was practically nonexistent prior to placement of infants and young toddlers in the backseat beginning in the late 1990s. I now know this danger too well, having lost my first child, my soulmate, Sophia Rayne (aka “Ray Ray”), to this too often unknown and misunderstood threat to child passenger safety in May 2011, just ten days after her first birthday. Our tale of tragedy resulting from ‘One Wrong Turn’ can be found on the Ray Ray’s Pledge website.
I learned very quickly after Ray Ray’s passing that our tragedy was in no way unique nor simply a ‘freak accident’. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), vehicular heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. To date, ‘noheatstroke.org’ reports that there have been at least 667 child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998, most of whom were inadvertently forgotten in the backseat at less than two years of age. The most common intended destination when they were forgotten? daycare/ babysitter. Thirty-seven children on average die annually of vehicular heatstroke. From the Friday kicking off Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, a child dies in a hot car every 3.5 days. Though the deadliest months nationally are July and August, it is important to note that children have died during every month of the year, EVEN on days when it is ‘not that hot’, as the inside temperature of a car can increase by more than 40 degrees in less than an hour, half of that in the first 10 minutes, and 80 percent of that within the initial 30 minutes after shutting off the engine (source: noheatstroke.org).
By now you may have heard many child safety groups cry that “technology in automobiles” is the answer to eliminating child hot car deaths. This battle cry annoys me as a parent of a heatstroke victim AND as a fellow vehicular heatstroke prevention warrior/ advocate. WHY???
- This statement is only partially true, given that nearly 30 percent of child hot car deaths involve kids who gain access to an unlocked car and become entrapped. There is no technology on earth that will make certain 100 percent of the time that vehicle doors are always locked upon exit AND that keys/ fobs are out of reach of children without unintended consequences of inadvertently locking people/ pets INSIDE, as learned recently in the 2015 Texas Corvette entrapment case and the 2013 California BMW entrapment case.
- EVEN if we were to have a miraculous technology blessed by the auto industry as 100 percent reliable AND plans to install in ALL car models of the next manufacturing season, WHAT do we do in the meantime with all of the other family transport vehicles within the US fleet? Not every family with a small child can afford to purchase a new vehicle immediately.
- EVEN if NHTSA issued a requirement for said ‘child backseat reminder technology’ to be added as a standard feature in the US automobile fleet by a specified date, whom would enforce that regulation and what would be the penalty for failure to comply? History has shown us that enforcement of said requirements, and penalties for non-compliance, is poor at best. For example: the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, related to standard-feature rear-view camera requirements to avoid accidental child back-overs, was signed into law in 2008, with a deadline of 2011 for auto manufacturers to comply…what was done when the auto industry did not comply? The deadline was extended to 2018, of course!
So, as parents who are now aware of the dangers of Forgotten ‘Backseat’ Baby Syndrome (FBS), WHAT do we do in the meantime, whilst we wait for the technology of the auto industry to spare our children from the dangers of our own memory failure? I have GREAT news! There are technologies available TODAY, on our smartphones, which can help us to prevent the tragic loss of our babies to vehicular heatstroke due to FBS by creating childcare arrival confirmations/ absence verifications within our family safety circles, a core concept of Ray Ray’s Pledge. Even better, these technologies are PASSIVE after the initial installation/ setup, meaning they do not rely upon you to be consistent in remembering or appropriately activating an alarm/ device each time you transport a child, a noted limitation of several post-market reminder devices as outlined in the 2012 NHTSA report on Evaluation of Reminder Technology.
Smartphone Safety Tip #1: The basic alarm clock
Most, if not all, smartphones are equipped with pre-installed clocks whose alarms are very easy to program (many of us now use these exclusively as our wake-up alarms), AND they can alarm with sound and vibration, even if one has muted the phone sound. I have two reminder alarms created in my phone: one that reminds me to check for my husband’s text confirming childcare drop-off at 9:45 am (within 15 minutes of the usual drop-off time); another that reminds me to confirm via text to my husband that we have arrived home and they have been removed from the car at 6:30pm each weekday—note that after the initial alarm setup with repeating schedule, these reminders are PASSIVE (ie., you don’t have to remember to set them each time you transport a child). I urge all parents and others who transport young children to create these safety circles confirming childcare drop-off and removal from the vehicle for both regular routines, such as daycare drop-off (a high risk time of day for FBS resulting in fatal vehicular heatstroke) and weekend church/ temple arrivals, as well as for those non-routine transports where a child may be inadvertently forgotten in the backseat such as mid-day doctor/ dentist appointments.
Smartphone Safety Tip #2: Text scheduling apps
Though there are numerous SMS scheduler apps available for download on both IOS and Android systems (and many of them are FREE!), the one I use on my android phone is titled, “SMS Scheduler”. Such apps allow you to pre-program a reminder text at a certain time of day and on whichever days needed so that the child transporter receives a text reminder to “confirm that children have been dropped off at school” to the safety circle/ other parent. Such apps may be found on your app store by searching, “SMS scheduler”. The downside: there is no safety net for failures to respond with confirmation of child drop-off/ pick-up other than user action to re-text/ call the driver.
Smartphone Safety Tip #3: Child reminder apps
The best app that I have found is the “Mom I am Here” app: great for confirmation of morning childcare drop-offs! It is currently available on android only and for a small fee. Once installed, this app allows you to set up an automatic schedule for the alarm to sound and display on your phone. If you do not respond to the alarm within your specified interval, it will send a text (which can be customized to include your daycare name, number, etc.) to your emergency contacts in a stepwise fashion so that a child’s whereabouts may be confirmed within a reasonable timeframe. The app has future build out plans for a 911 option as well. What I love most about this app is the automatic safety chain of emergency contacts when the driver fails to confirm child drop-off within a customizable interval (in my case, 5 minutes).
Another app I like (and use daily) is the “Check My Child” (CMC) Reminder system, also available on android for a small fee. CMC features customizable scheduling, one emergency backup if the user fails to confirm the alert within a customizable alarm interval, and the option to set multiple reminders. This app is great for children who need to travel to multiple activities during a typical week (eg: art, swim class, childcare).
Sadly, I have not found any child reminder apps operating in IOS or Windows-based smartphones that offer the emergency backup contact features of the two aforementioned reminder apps which are currently available on android devices. I hope that this status changes in the near future. It is important to note, however, that IOS does offer as a standard feature a GPS-based reminder/ alert notification, which can be set up to alarm upon detecting arrival to your workplace, church, etc. There are also apps that can use GPS-based locations to set alerts. However, the ones I have tested to date have been less than optimal in reliability for my family’s daily child transport activities.
A Call to Action for ALL Parents:
As I approach the fifth anniversary of my child’s untimely death due to vehicular heatstroke, I look back with pride at how far my fellow heatstroke prevention warriors have come in raising awareness of FBS, a danger to child passenger safety that most parents have never heard of until it strikes their family or their community. I also look at the present status of child hot car deaths and must admit my frustration with the apparent failure of the aforementioned awareness campaigns to reduce the average number of annual child hot car deaths. Why???? What are we missing? My best guess is that we too often tell parents to create reminders to alert them of babies riding in the backseat, but most of the reminder suggestions are impractical, even archaic at times given the advanced technology systems that we have become accustomed to in our daily lives. The core concept of Ray Ray’s Pledge calls for families with young children to create a safety circle of childcare arrival confirmations and absence verifications for the morning childcare drop-off, a known high-risk time of day for young children to be forgotten in the backseat, ESPECIALLY if the child is less than three years of age and/ or there is a change in routine. This safety circle should include the parents, the childcare provider/ teacher, as well as the driver in charge of transporting the child on a regular basis (if different from the parents). I know, in hindsight, that one phone call or text could have saved my baby’s life on that fateful day; and I hope that the smartphone tips and tools that I have elucidated in today’s blog will assist you in creating your own safety circle to prevent child vehicular heatstroke in your family—BUT….reading this blog will do nothing to save your child from your own memory failure: you MUST take ACTION to prevent child hot car death. The first step? Use one of these reminder suggestions as part of your daily child transport safety plan!
To Get You Started!!
***PEDIATRIC SAFETY & RAY RAY’S PLEDGE ARE GIFTING 50 ACCESS CODES***
We are Giving the “Mom I am Here” App…to the first 50 Android Phone Owners Who Do the Following 2 Things…
- Sign Up for Child Safety: Subscribe Here to Receive Pediatric Safety Emails (make sure to confirm or we won’t know)
- Take RayRay’s Pledge: Post one of the following on Twitter, FB or your favorite Social Media Site – (go ahead and customize it – make it your own!)
- I pledge to call my child’s teacher/caregiver if he/she will be late or absent from childcare
- I pledge to check my back seats every time I walk away from my car, and remind others to do the same
- I pledge to call the police any time I see a child left alone in a car
Leave a Comment and Let Us Know You Met These 2 Requirements (along with a link [URL] to your pledge) and we’ll email you an access code to the Mom I am Here App. Please Help Us Keep Kids Out of Hot Cars This Summer!
- Promotion is only for Android phones – we’re so sorry, but this app isn’t available for iPhones
- Promo codes have no country of origin participation restrictions
- Codes will be given to the first 50 participants that can be verified to have met BOTH requirements above.
- Promotion starts Friday May 27, 2016 and ends at noon EST Thursday June 2, 2016. Please make sure to confirm your subscription to Pediatric Safety (and leave your email address in the comments so we can match it up) or we can’t verify the entry.
- Finally – very important – you MUST redeem the access codes and install the app before their expiration date of June 14th, 2016.
There are many traditions at this time of year that involve parents giving their children presents – whether obviously or through Santa subterfuge! But there are many gifts we give our kids throughout the year that have a much more lasting impact than the latest hot video game or toy, even if our little people don’t yet realize it or always appreciate our efforts. Below is a selection of some of these gifts of love.
The WHO cites a book on the history of vaccination that says only clean water has done more for the health and wellness of mankind. Historical books, movies and TV shows detail just how frightening the diseases we vaccinate against once were. The shots we get for our children are a gift that provides a lifetime of protection – for them and those around us.
Every time parents install a cabinet lock to hide chemical cleaners, secure heavy furniture and TVs against tipping, or reduce the setting of their water heater they are providing invaluable gifts to their children – reduction in the risk of preventable poisoning, injury, burns. The Consumer Product
Safety Commission says that 22,000 kids are seen in Emergency Departments each year due to injuries from furniture and TV tip-overs – and 26 kids die annually from these incidents.
Around 400-500 child deaths are prevented in the US every year due to use of car seats and other child restraints – and that’s not counting the reduction in severe injuries from use of safety seats for kids. Every time we strap them into a car seat we are giving them a precious gift and teaching them good car safety habits for when they become drivers.
Healthy Eating Appreciation
Obesity is one of the greatest health crises of our age, given its link to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, liver disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, and even several cancers. Helping our children appreciate food for its support of health is a gift that keeps giving over a lifetime.
Active Lifestyle Encouragement
As parents, we all want our children to live a long and happy life. Physical activity is a important contributor to this goal, given how it reduces risk for chronic diseases and even improves mental health, sleep and mood.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, “only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.”
Getting our kids to be active – and, more importantly, being a role model for physical activity is literally a gift of life.
Protection from Excessive/Inappropriate Online Exposure
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their guidelines for “screen time” to better reflect how entrenched online usage now is at all ages, they still make recommendations – such as focusing on content and engaging with your kids around screens – to ensure a valuable online experience. Putting limits in place for when our kids can access the internet and what they can see is an important gift for protecting their online reputation and preventing inappropriate connections.
So while you are savoring your kids squeals of delight when they open their presents during the holidays, remember to pat yourself on the back for all the other gifts you labor to give them year-round – gifts that protect them for a lifetime.Pin It
Several years ago I wrote a post on booster seats (I’m 9 Years Old – Do I Really Still Need a Booster Seat?) about how my then 9 year old son didn’t want to keep using a booster seat in the car because none of his friends did anymore and he felt he was old enough to use the regular seat belt. The point of the article was that guidelines issued in 2011 recommended using a booster seat until a child reaches 4’9” tall (57 inches) and weighs between 80 and 100 pounds – generally in the range of 8-12 years of age. This continues to be one of our most read posts on the site and still gets occasional comments – which indicates the ongoing confusion and lack of clear laws and communication about what constitutes safe car travel for our older kids.
Recently one of our readers asked a very good question about my post – which warranted some extra research:
My car (Jeep Cherokee, older) has a bench seat in back, and the back of the seat is somewhat low. If my 8 year old son is not in a booster, his head and neck are against the seat and supported; in a booster, his shoulders, neck and head are above the seat back and completely unsupported. In a wreck, that booster would cause his neck to be snapped. I really hate that the law forces me to endanger him that way with the booster. Buying a new car isn’t an option, and I wish there were some sort of aftermarket option that was safe and crash-tested, which would allow the belt to fit him and keep him out of the booster. Suggestions?
To get an expert perspective on this issue, I turned to Stephanie Tombrello, LCSW, CPSTI, Executive Director of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. According to Tombrello, “if a parent has a vehicle with a low-back vehicle seat, the immediate recommendation is a high back booster. There are many options in every price range and with a variety of backs.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a recommended list of “Good Bets” for booster seats in 2015, many of which are high back models. Additionally, “for some children, the Dorel (Safety 1st) Incognito booster for children 60-120 lbs. can be low enough to allow for fitting the belt properly while not placing the child high in the vehicle,” says Tombrello.
If none of these options suit, parents can consider an alternative to booster seats – the Safe Traffic System RIDESAFER Travel Vest – which Tombrello also recommended. These vests, which are billed as the world’s first wearable child restraint system, reduce the load transferred to the child in a crash, thereby providing better safety. However, please note that these vests are limited to a weight of 80 pounds and height of 57 inches.
Virtually no US laws make it clear that children need booster seats until adult belts fit – and there’s little guidance to parents on how to determine fit. Tombrello cautions “that children must be able to pass the 5-Step Test before dispensing with a booster. The potential injuries to the bowel or stomach from the misplaced lap belt are significant.” See the box below for the steps to take to determine if and when your child can graduate to adult seat belts – and go to www.carseat.org for more information on protecting children and pregnant women in the car.
The 5-Step Test
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
I received a call on the evening of Friday, June 19, 2015, which brought me to tears for the remainder of the weekend. Tears of bittersweet joy; tears of validation from four exhausting years of battle against the often unknown danger of Child Vehicular Heatstroke (aka child hot car deaths or vehicular hyperthermia) due to Forgotten Backseat Baby Syndrome (FBS); and most importantly, tears of HOPE. What was the origin of such passionate tears? The signing of Texas HB2574 into law by Governor Abbott that day. This law adds the danger of child vehicular heatstroke to the list of topics that must be reviewed with parents of newborns prior to hospital discharge as required by the Texas Health and Safety Code. It is unique in the setting of vehicular heatstroke laws in that it provides for information and resources for PREVENTION of children being left unattended in vehicles BEFORE a child enters a vehicle for the first time. Other vehicular heatstroke laws only address punishment for leaving children unattended in vehicles or exemption from prosecution of good samaritans who break into vehicles to rescue unattended children.
My Vehicular Heatstroke Story: ONE WRONG TURN to Tragedy
My entire household overslept on the morning of May 25, 2011. I was awakened by Ray Ray’s sweet giggles and kisses on my face, followed by a glance at the clock that read 9:43 am!!!! We rushed to get ready for our day, then I followed my husband and child to his truck, where we both placed Ray Ray securely in her car seat. I waved as they descended down the driveway, then carried on with my workday. I had no idea that a tragic error, one that would decimate my family, would be made in the next seven minutes: a RIGHT turn at a critical traffic intersection instead of the LEFT turn required to reach Ray Ray’s childcare center.
Fast forward less than three hours later. I picked up my husband at his office for a quick lunch date. We talked during that drive about our little princess and how beautiful she was in her new dress, a birthday gift from her teacher, for “Tropical Day” at the daycare. Then, as I pulled into the parking lot, my husband said to me, “Go back to the office”. I asked why. He repeated, “just go back to the office…. Immediately”. As I approached a red traffic light, he instructed me to run the light…this was so weird to me, so I asked: “WHAT is going on?” Then my world started spinning as I heard his words: “I can’t remember dropping Ray Ray off at daycare this morning”.
As I sped to the office, I instructed him to call the office and have them check the truck. At the same time, I called the daycare….almost simultaneously as I heard confirmation from her teacher that she was not present, the office manager told my husband that they removed her from the truck. Two calls to 911 were placed within one minute of each other, one by me, the other from the office. Despite all of our efforts to save her, Sophia Rayne (aka “Ray Ray”), my soulmate, was pronounced dead at 2:49 pm. My soul died as she did, and my heart broke into millions of pieces, some of which would never be recovered….In short, my entire world crumbled into dust. Sadly, there would be many more cases that summer, and in the years since, many whose stories sounded EXACTLY like ours: a forgotten childcare drop-off by a responsible parent. Many of them also originating from one wrong turn on the morning of that fateful drive.
Child Vehicular Heatstroke: Just the Facts
Child vehicular heatstroke is the leading non-traffic cause of fatalities for children under 14 years of age. According to data from noheatstroke.org by Jan Null, CCM, at least 647 children have perished since 1998 from this often unrecognized, commonly misperceived danger to child passenger safety. Most of these children were mistakenly forgotten in the backseat by good parents, victims of ‘Forgotten Backseat Baby Syndrome’ (FBS; an unintended consequence of moving children to the backseat in the 1990s). They were most frequently on their way to a childcare provider when they were tragically forgotten. The second most common source of child hot car deaths: UNLOCKED CARS! Almost 30 percent of cases involve children gaining access to an unlocked vehicle then becoming trapped inside. Sadly, nearly 75 percent of all child hot car deaths involve children under the age of two (Data on file, Ray Ray’s Pledge).
The NEW Vehicular Heatstroke Law in Texas (HB2574)
Texas leads the nation in child hot car deaths. As of this writing, at least 96 little Texans have died from vehicular heatstroke since 1998. My precious Ray Ray was number 74. Prior to my loss, I had NEVER heard about the remote possibility of a sane, responsible parent forgetting one’s child in the backseat under the perfect storm of conditions such as change in routine, sleep deprivation, and/ or stress paired with a fateful distraction while driving (eg: a wrong turn, road construction leading to detoured route, being cut off in traffic by another driver, an emergency phone call)….NOT at my OB appointments, not in the numerous parenting classes we took as nervous first-time parents-to-be, not at the hospital after she was born, and not in our pediatrician’s office. I have waged my own war against child vehicular heatstroke over the past four years to change that for other families. NO child should have to die for a family or a community to learn about this danger to child passenger safety for the first time. The new vehicular heatstroke education requirement prior to newborn hospital discharge in Texas provides the first critical step to making sure that parents are informed of the dangers of children left unattended in vehicles WITHOUT a child having to die in order to gain such knowledge. Texas HB2574 gives me hope and new inspiration to fight even harder in my war to end child vehicular heatstroke. As a parent survivor of a vehicular heatstroke victim, I am so proud of the team of citizens and legislators who made this possibility a REALITY. Further, I feel validated that, FINALLY, child vehicular heatstroke will be recognized as a danger as pertinent to new parents as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
A Call to Action for Other States
In conclusion, I urge parents from other states to contact your legislators and demand the same vehicular heatstroke education for new parents. Though not foolproof, early preventive education of a too-often unknown danger to child passenger safety is a great start to driving to zero child hot car deaths. The life that is saved by such information could be YOUR child!
For more information and resources related to child vehicular heatstroke, please visit our website: www.RayRaysPledge.com.
As the school year winds down and summer travel plans go into action, families will get in the car and drive all around this great country of ours. Let’s face it, summer does mean the kids are out of school and usually need someplace to go before they tear the house down and getting in the car and going somewhere, anywhere is usually what happens. But before you head out in the car this summer, whether it is for the cross country journey or the 5 minute ride to the park, please put on your seat belt.
We have all heard the sayings “Seat Belts Save Lives” or “click it or ticket”. In 2009 the NHTSA released a study saying that over 1600 lives could be saved each year and over 22,000 serious injuries could be avoided each year if seat belt use rose to 90% in drivers and passengers in automobiles and I am here to tell you that it is more than true. Having responded to many traffic accidents and seen the results of both wearing and not wearing a seatbelt, I can honestly say that seatbelts do save lives every day. Let’s be honest. How long does it take to put on a seatbelt? A few seconds? , that does not sound too unreasonable to be part of the thousands of lives saved every year does it?.
Many states handle seatbelt laws differently. Some states require seatbelts and some do not. Whether your state requires it or not, before we head out onto the roadway let us think about the people in the car shall we?
The Driver – You. Adults are the WORST offenders about not wearing seatbelts. When you put your seat belt on, you are keeping yourself safer in case of accident and you also give a good example to the other passengers regardless of age.
The Kids – Kids are always watching us to see how we do things and what is acceptable and if you put on your seatbelt every time you get in the car then the kids will begin to model your behavior and after a while it can become an automatic response from them, no matter what car they get in. Now smaller children may need help and may require you to click them in properly and safely before yourself. Infants and smaller children in car seats will obviously need the help but also the children in the booster seats may need some additional help, plus a quick check and tug on the belts they put on by themselves never hurts.
Teenagers – Teenagers are some of the worst offenders of not wearing seatbelts right after adults. Teenagers have an invincibility about them which is normal but should never be allowed to talk you out of making them put on the seatbelt regardless of the distance of the trip.
Pets – We do not normally think about our pets when it comes to seal belt time but pets are passengers too and if the pets are coming with us in the car then there needs to be a way to make sure they are secure. There are a number of pet friendly carries and devices for the car that make this possible.
The bottom line is that seatbelts DO save lives. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to look at someone who just had a car accident and tell them “good thing you were wearing your seat belt “.
Have a Great Summer, Be Safe and Buckle Up……..All of you!
Thank YouPin It
The following infographic is courtesy of Safe Kids Worldwide. Many teens are texting and riding in cars without seatbelts…and this doesn’t always stop when our teens start driving. Click here to access the research report and find out more about cars and teen safety.Pin It