12 tips to prevent child deaths in hot cars

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jun 08, 2018

10 years later and it's still hard to talk about at all.

But speaking so publicly? That's something Arizona resident Dawn Peabody had to think hard about after her daughter Maya died in the backseat of a hot car. But she wants something positive to come from her family's tragedy. 

"We miss her dearly. The night before she passed away we were at the state fair and she was on one the rides waving to us saying mommy, mommy," Peabody recalled. "That's just those memories that I have of her."

Peabody said it happened because of a change in routine. She normally had Maya in the mornings, but this particular day, her husband had her. When he drove home and parked in the their north Phoenix driveway, he didn't realize she was in his car, fast asleep in her car seat.

"After was a personal hell you can't even imagine," she said.

Peabody said not everyone was sympathetic. Some people left dead animals at their doorstep, online comments were stinging to read, and of course, there was an investigation.

"I wondered if my husband was going to be arrested as we were trying to deal with the trauma my other kids were going through," she said. 

Peabody is advocating for sensors in cars that would notify you if your child is left behind.  But she warns to not rely totally on technology.  She now works with the group Kids and Cars to spread her message. 

Kids and Cars recommends:

  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving  your vehicle.  Make sure no child has been left behind.  
  • Create a reminder to check the back seat. 
  • Put something you'll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park. 
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat. 
  • Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop‐off.  Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of their whereabouts. If your child will not be attending daycare as scheduled, it is the parent’s responsibility to call and inform the childcare provider.  If your child does not show up as scheduled; and they have not received a call from the parent, the childcare provider pledges to contact you immediately to ensure the safety of your child. (this is very similar to the ‘absence‐line’ used by most elementary, middle and high schools) 
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages.  Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.   
  • Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children. 
  • Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute. 
  • If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them.  
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately.  If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. 
  • Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.  This is when many tragedies occur. 
  • Use drive-thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.) and pay for gas at the pump.