Throughout my times as a parenting writer, I’ve told many tragic stories about hot car deaths. These are the 100% preventable child deaths that occur when a child is either forgotten about in a car on a hot day or climbs into one and cannot get out. Hot car deaths are a controversial issue, because while many parents blame the parents of the dead child and say “it could never happen to me,” the truth is, it can happen to anyone—even the best of parents. We all get distracted, we all have moments when a child slips past us unnoticed. For most of us, those moments do not end in tragedy. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune. It means the odds haven’t beaten us. I certainly do not enjoy writing about hot car deaths, but since they keep happening, well…these are the kinds of stories I will write about until I don’t have to any more.
No parent is immune to the tragedy of child hot car deaths.
The most recent child to die in a hot car has a shocking story, purely because of her age. This week, and eleven-year-old New York girl passed away because she was trapped in a hot car. Most children are too small to open car doors, or are asleep strapped in their car seats and left there by parents who have simply forgotten their child was with them. But at eleven, it seems almost impossible that a child would not be able to get out of the car. However, several news outlets are reporting that the child had special needs.
They are also reporting that the child has an excellent mother. One neighbor, Donna Heester, told the New York Post: “She was a very attentive mother. She was on her children like a hawk – you wouldn’t find a better set of parents. I’ve known them for 20 years and she never left her children alone. And if she couldn’t make it home and the bus came she’d call me up and ask me ‘Could the kids come over here?’ Sure.”
Heester added: “Her house is armed with cameras, she knows everything that goes on for her family, inside and outside.”
According to a statement by the Suffolk County police, the mother was out running errands with her three children that day.
“After returning home, the girl’s mother went inside believing all of the children were out of the car,” the statement says. It continues, “Sometime later, the mother could not locate the 11-year-old girl and checked inside of the car where she found the girl. The mother carried the 11-year-old girl inside the house and called 911.”
She performed CPR, but it was too late. Her daughter later died at the hospital. The type of special needs or disability that the girl had are not being specifically reported by news outlets, so it’s unclear why she would not be able to get herself out of the car.
Parents need to put a warning system in place to avoid hot car deaths.
This is a terrible tragedy, and it’s one that all of us need to carry with us: no matter how busy, how distracted, make sure ALL your kids make it into the house with you after you have been in the car on a hot day. No matter how old they are, no matter if they are “typical” or have special needs: MAKE SURE. My husband uses the Waze app to remind him that he has our children in the car when he turns the car off, even though ours are seven, eleven, and fourteen years old. You really cannot be too careful in a world full of distractions and stress that can ultimately lead to accidental hot car deaths.
Do SOMETHING, moms and dads. Put a system in place. Put your shoe in your child’s car seat, or your purse in their laps. Do SOMETHING so that you will not be able to get out of the car without looking and seeing that your child is still there.
Hot car deaths are preventable. Let’s prevent them, and wipe them out.