Hot cars present a danger to older children, too
Every summer, we see heartbreaking news stories about children left in hot cars. There are countless articles out there featuring various ways to ensure this never, ever happens to us — the busy parent, the parent who’s out of their routine, the exhausted parent. But what about children who are old enough to get themselves inside of a car, but can’t get themselves out?
Amy Amos, a photographer, blogger, and fellow mom, recently shared a heart-pounding and terrifying experience surrounding this very thing.
In her blog, Half Heard In The Stillness, Amos describes the incident where she realized her four-year-old son couldn’t open the car doors on his own, and he panicked. A scary moment that began like any other perfectly normal, everyday moment:
“We had gone to the pool. When we got home I made sure he was unbuckled from his car seat, and his car door was wide open. We have a Toyota Highlander, just FYI.
“I was carrying in wet towels and swim trunks, my wallet, keys, the camera, a lens that I was worried about dropping, *and* I’m pregnant with twins and had to pee.
“He often walks inside slowly, stopping to look at random crumbs in the carseat or ants on the ground. Our neighborhood is relatively safe, he knows not to wander off, he knows how to open the front door by himself. My older kids were also walking inside, he wasn’t even alone.
“About ten minutes after I’d come in the house I realized I hadn’t heard his voice.”
Every mom knows that heart-pounding, panicky feeling. When your child disappears for a quick second in the middle of a Target aisle or you can’t quickly spot them in a crowded playground. It happens to all of us – we just don’t expect it to happen at home, doing things we do everyday.
“We started looking for him–maybe he was in the bathroom pooping,” she writes. “Or sometimes he will grab the iPad and sit down quietly.
“He wasn’t in the house anywhere.
“He was in the car.
“The doors were shut, he was sweating and sobbing with his face pressed against the window.
“Ten minutes while we were distracted, and he was trapped in the car.”
Amos assumed her young son had followed his older siblings into the house, not realizing that her “big, strong, very smart” preschooler couldn’t quite master the door handle on his own.
She says her son was laying on the floor of the car, looking for a lost shoe when everyone else was walking inside. One of his siblings assumed he’d already gotten out of the car and that he left the car door open by accident, so she closed it for him.
“He couldn’t get the car doors open, so he panicked and cried. No one could hear him.
“I’m sure you all are like me–you think you would never forget your kid in a hot car.
“But what if your kid gets trapped in a hot car by accident?
Why is this not something we talk about? Why isn’t it a thing we teach our kids, like we do with fire drills?”
Preschool-aged children don’t require nearly as much helicoptering and hovering as infants and young toddlers do. They’re independent. They’re capable of doing many things. But they can still get themselves into seriously dangerous situation, lickety-split. They like to hide, they like to be playful, and they like to keep us on our toes. We should definitely be teaching them how to open car doors just like we teach them how to put their cups in the sink and to tie their own shoes.
Amos says she plans on working with her son to practice opening the car door from the inside on his own, how to unbuckle his own car seat, how the car locks work, and how to honk the horn until someone comes to help if he can’t do it on his own. All things we should think of to regularly do with our appropriately-aged children, because you simply never know and you can never be too safe when it comes to things like this.
“It’s not a thing I’ve ever heard of or thought of,” Amos writes. “Please take ten minutes of your day and be sure your kids at least know how to push the buttons and honk the horn if they accidentally get in the car alone, and have them practice opening the doors from the inside if they’re strong enough. Remind your friends with small children to do the same. You never know, they could get into the car when you least expect it. Knowing how to get out might save their lives.”