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How To Avoid Accidentally Locking Your Kids In The Car

Mornings can be hectic with little kids, right? There are breakfasts to be made, lunches to be prepared, and  kids to be dressed, not including preparing yourself for your workday too. When all that is taken care of, you still have to get the kids into the car, along with whatever you need to take along for work that day.

little boy with car keys opening car doorAnd don’t forget the squabbling over rain coats, bickering over seating arrangements (but Mommy, I want to sit in his car seat today!) and then navigating the frustrations of rush hour traffic on the way to begin your day.

And there is the big chance that you forgot something very important.

It is very easy to be a distracted parent. There are so many curve-balls be tossed your way at once it can be hard to make heads and tails of the situation. Perhaps the biggest fear parents have in their morning routine is if they left something important at home. Did I grab enough diapers? Where’s the wallet? Do I have my phone? My keys? Did I make sure to turn off the stove?

And then there’s the remote possibility of accidentally locking your kids in the car.

Believe it or not, this kind of mental blunder is not uncommon to even the best parents. Most parents assume this would never happen to them… until it does.  Many times local locksmiths are called in to help open the doors of a car and liberate the tots inside.

The following are a few tips that parents have learned the hard way that can help you remember not to lock your kids inside a car:

No. 1 — ANY TIME you leave your vehicle, make sure you ALWAYS have your kids with you

While this may seem obvious, what this means is if you need to hop out to grab something really quick from the supermarket, take the kiddos with you! If your one-year old that has trouble sleeping has fallen asleep in the backseat, and you desperately need diapers, you have a choice to make – and neither option includes leaving him in the back seat. In many states this is required by law, especially in those states where the temperatures can get pretty high (such as Florida). By making this a habit, you will avoid leaving them in the car, and locking them in the car by accident.

No. 2 — Don’t leave your Keys where the kiddos can get them

Even if you are in the comfort of your home. The auto lock feature on the key fob makes it easy for even a small child to secure the vehicle with themselves inside. Spare keys are a must, and please don’t make the mistake of putting the spare key on the same ring with your primary key. Finding a competent locksmith to create a spare is far easier than having this job done at the dealers.

No. 3 — Pre-arranged Communications with your child’s caregiver

Make sure you are in constant communication with your child’s caregiver and that they will call you if your child does not show up at day care. Parents have been in such a flurry, they have left their child in the backseat of the car as they head to work. These are the absolute worst lock-ins as they can be potentially fatal.  There are “reminder” smartphone apps that require check-ins – if your child does not arrive at the caregiver’s location, a pre-programmed alert will be sent.

No. 4 — Check the Seat

Yes, a simple routine whenever you enter or exit your car should become second nature to a concerned parent. The same way you can check to make sure your keys, cellphone and wallet/purse are in your possession, you can flip your head to the backseat and make sure your little one is where he should be, Place a sign on the dashboard if it will help you remember.

No. 5— Have a Locksmith on Speed Dial

Despite taking every precaution accidents can and do happen, so have a plan in place for the “just in case” scenario, keeping in mind that the harshness of the situation will ultimately determine your response.  If it is at the height of the heat of the day, 80 degrees and climbing and your child is in the car, you will want immediate action. Call the police, ambulance, and attempt to break a window for entry into the car.

If it is cool outside, and your child hasn’t been in the car for long, you may want a less drastic option, such as calling your local locksmith. Locksmiths are typically on-call 24/7 and will have no problem showing up onsite to spring your tiny tot from their imprisonment.  If you need help finding one near you, and you are in the U.S., you can use this site for help in finding a local one near you.

In Conclusionyou must always be vigilant when it comes to car safety and your child. Parents tend to spend a lot of time researching the perfect car seat for their child in the event of a car accident, God forbid. However, they don’t really think that they’ll ever accidentally leave their child in the car. They don’t think they’ll ever be that sort of parent who could be so neglectful.

The truth is that it so easy to make the mistake of accidentally locking your child in the car. With the off chance of that happening, parents must remain vigilant and create a plan to prevent this situation ever happening.  Take these tips to heart.

The WarmMe: The Safe Car Seat Winter Coat Alternative

Just over four and a half years ago (Winter 2012), I found myself as a first time mom of a beautiful 6 month old baby girl and I had a problem. We had moved my daughter out of her infant car seat and into a convertible car seat, she was just too heavy to carry around in the infant seat. The problem was it was winter and I didn’t know how to keep her warm while also keeping her safe in her new seat. I had read many articles and seen many graphics online about the dangers of using a winter coat under the straps of car seat harness.

A winter coat is too bulky to safely and securely use under a car seat harness. We did the quick test suggested in multiple articles, put the child in their coat and secure the harness straps, tightening them until they feel snug, then take the child out of the seat and remove their coat, put them back in and buckle the straps. We were shocked by the results, we were certain the straps had been tight when the coat was one, but once the coat was removed there was so much slack in the straps! In the case of a car accident, the force from the accident would cause the child’s winter coat to compress against the straps and the result would be gaping, loose straps that a child could slip through. More recently (February 25, 2016), Consumer Report issued a report and video on this exact danger. They suggest removing the child’s coat and putting it over them like a blanket once they are secured in the car seat, or using a blanket to cover the child.

So, how would we keep our little girl warm throughout a cold Michigan winter? We tried multiple options including putting her coat or snowsuit on in the house and removing in the car then putting it over her once she was buckled. We tried layering blankets over her once she was buckled. We tried lightweight sweatshirts under the straps. None of these options were convenient or warm, taking the coat on and off was probably the most time consuming, the blankets didn’t stay on, and the sweatshirts just weren’t warm enough. That’s when I knew there had to be a warm and safe alternative to the winter coat. I decided to make something as warm as a blanket that would stay on without the need for removing in the car. I thought that something like a poncho would work the best, and so the first version of the The WarmMe was born.

The first version of The WarmMe was very basic, it kept my daughter warm and safe in the car, so it served it’s purpose but I felt there were improvements that could be made. The WarmMe had a single button on the front to secure it and made opening the front simple and easy for securing the car seat harness underneath. The first WarmMe was made of a fleece lined sherpa material that was cute and cuddly, but pricey plus very limited on color selection. The WarmMe worked well that first winter, so the next winter I made an identical one that was just a bit larger to fit my quickly growing daughter.

This second winter my daughter was becoming more independent and always wanting to walk rather than be carried, even on cold and windy winter days. I noticed that on a windy day her WarmMe would blow open when she was walking around outside. I decided to add something special that sets The WarmMe apart from other ponchos and kept my little girl warm even on windy days-by a special feature, interior pockets. The pockets on the inside allowed my daughter to keep her hands warm and also wrap The WarmMe around herself when she was wearing it outside of the car. Her second winter, my daughter loved her new and improved WarmMe with the added pockets. This was also when I decided to change the material from the sherpa to fleece. Fleece is much easier to work with especially when adding the pockets, has endless color and print combinations available, and is easily washable (a definite bonus when creating something for little kids!).

People stopped us all the time asking where were got The WarmMe and when I said I made it they started encouraging me to sell them. At this point in time I had two young children and was working part time as a school social worker, adding to a small business to my already full and busy life didn’t seem to make sense to me. Plus, my whole goal was to keep my daughters safe in the car, how could I put a price on that?

In October 2015 my life changed. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage. As our dream of adding a 3rd baby to our family was crushed and I was left in the most physical and emotional pain I have ever experienced, I found myself needing something I was passionate about to get me out of the dark place I was stuck in. At this point I had made a couple WarmMes as gifts for friends and family and the feedback was great, they loved how much easier it made everyday life. That’s when I went for it, I decided to take a chance and put them up for sale, as I realized I could reach a lot of parents and caregivers who were looking for a safe way to keep their little ones warm. The business started very small, just a couple postings on my personal Facebook page that were then shared by my family and friends.

Each WarmMe has always been custom made based on the child’s clothing size and the print or color preference, so I just focused on completing each order as it came in. People soon started asking for added features such as an attached hood. After asking around and doing a little experimenting I decided a hood is just too bulky to be comfortable behind a child’s head and neck while riding in the car. I decided to start offering matching hats and they’ve been a hit! The next request was for matching scarves for the mom or dad and that option was quickly added in what I like to call the “Mommy and Me Set.”

In February 2016, The WarmMe was featured on a segment called “Moms a Genius” on WXYZ Detroit and the business picked up from there. I could no longer keep up with orders on my own, so my wonderful and supportive husband stepped in to help. This year The WarmMe made the news again on my local news station WLNS 6 out of Lansing, MI and has been picked up by other stations in states such as South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, and Virginia. This holiday season The WarmMe has been sent to cold states all over the map. The best part of the increased business has been the feedback from happy customers. Almost daily I receive messages stating how much parents and children alike love The WarmMe and how it has made life easier by keeping little ones safe and warm! It is amazing knowing that my product is making life a little easier for parents, while keeping their precious little ones safe! I’m very happy to say that both The WarmMe business and our family are growing as we are expecting the newest addition to our family in January 2017!

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

  1. While the WarmMe is designed to young children safe and warm in their car seats, there are also products designed to fit safely over infant seats while not interfering with the ability to securely buckle the harness. These products are ones that do not go between the child and the car seat or buckles, but go over the seat similar to a shower cap.
  2. If taking a long road trip or traveling far from home when road or weather conditions are really bad (remember, I’m talking Michigan winters!) take along coats, snowpants, or snowsuits. If something were to happen and you ended up stranded these items would definitely help keep your little one warm until help arrived.
  3. Remember safe sleep precautions when using The WarmMe, similar products, or blankets to keep your child warm in the car seat. Always be sure the fabric is away from their face allowing for an open airway. If transferring a sleeping child from the car into their bed always remove The WarmMe.
  4. Here is the official Consumer Reports recommended “simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their harness”
  • Put the coat on your child, sit them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
  • Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat.
  • Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing the coat.
  • If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

The Other Gifts We Give Our Kids

Christmas dayThere 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.

Vaccinations

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.

Safe Home

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.

Safe Transport

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.

Video: Stairs, Water & More – Preventing Child Accidents at Home

Katrina Phillips of the Child Accident Prevention Trust explains how to make your home childproof and prevent avoidable accidents.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

There are hazards all around the home. This video covers the following key accident risks and areas of the house:

  • Stairs – barriers are needed at the top and bottom of stairs to protect young children – and toys at the top of stairs can be a risk for all family members
  • Bathrooms
    • Don’t leave cleaners under the sink or by the side of the toilet or bath – even if they have “childproof” caps – many 3-year olds can open these containers
    • Scalding bath water is a major hazard – always make sure the water is the right temperature before filling the bath

Note: In the UK, generally hot and cold water run through separate taps – so the advice in the video is UK-specific. In North America, the usual advice for bath water is to get the water running to the right temperature before filling it for your child – and to reduce the temperature of your hot water heater to avoid accidental scalding.

  • Bedrooms
    • Little girl playing with household cleanersIf  your window can fully open, invest in window locks to prevent falls
    • Beware of window blind cords – young children can get wrapped in these and strangled
  • Kitchen
    • It’s important to keep pot handles and electric leads or cords away from edges of counters and small hands
    • Also ensure your cabinets have childproof locks – especially if they contain cleaners
  • Family Room or Lounge
    • Beware of hot cups of coffee or tea – Did you know a baby’s skin is 15 times thinner than an adult’s? – so hot liquid can do them much greater harm
  • Transportation Safety
    • Car seats are critical for kids – but ensure you have the correct seat for your child’s age and weight
    • Ensure your child always uses a helmet with a bike – even if just around your yard / driveway
    • Check out the video for more safe biking tips for your child – a healthy way to get around

A Question on Vehicle Booster Seats Answered

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 Portrait Of Girl Holding Booster Seat Standing Next To Carusing 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?

Texas’ New Child Vehicular Heatstroke Law: What It Means to Me

The Sun is Setting on Vehicular heatstrokeI 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 StoryONE 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.  ray ray family pic 2011I 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

jan null airbag vs heatstroke death - graphChild 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)

Reqd Safety Info for Parents of Newborns TX

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).

RRP logo 2014A 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.

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