This past weekend the Washington Post featured a wonderful, albeit tragic, story about parents who leave their children behind in hot, parked cars for hours. Every year, 15-25 children die from these parental mistakes. The question beneath all of the individual stories was this: Should this kind of absentmindedness be a crime? Among the 516 comments are examples of nudges that can prevent these kinds of future tragedies.
- Several products are available to remind a parent if a child remains in a car seat after the car is turned off. One of the more popular is Cars-N-Kids Car Seat Monitor, which turns on upon sensing a child’s weight and sounds a lullaby when the car has stopped; it retails for about $40 and is available online.
- KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group for child vehicle safety, urges some basic measures to prevent the tragedy of children being inadvertently left in vehicles: 1) Always put something you’ll need for work — cellphone, handbag, employee badge, etc. — on the floor of the back seat, near the child. 2) Keep a large teddy bear in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the teddy bear up front in the passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the teddy bear is in the passenger seat, the child is in the back. 3) Make arrangements with your child’s day-care provider or babysitter that you will always call them if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled. Ask them to always phone you if your child does not show up when expected.
- Keep your car key separate from your house and office keys. When you put your kid in the back seat, put your office and house keys back there too. Put your cell phone and blackberry back there while you’re at it.
- “I have two thoughts on ways to add more “Swiss cheese” layers of defense. One: each parent develops a system of wearing a badge or string or something when the kid is in the car, like the person who talked about their company’s lock-up procedures. Two: drive with the windows cracked a little, even during summer when the A/C is on (but not cracked too much; you don’t want your car stolen with the baby inside, either). Sure, it’s energy inefficient, but even if the horrible happens and the baby is forgotten, I’d think that’d buy him/her a few precious hours for the parent to realize their mistake or for a passerby to notice.
Hat tip: Hugo Mercier