Whether you're planning a lengthy road trip or staying in town this summer, you and your young child are likely to be spending at least some time in the car. Unfortunately, even minor changes to your daily routine can put you at risk of forgetting that your child is riding with you, setting the stage for tragedy. In other cases, a curious child may accidentally lock him or herself in your vehicle along with your spare keys, giving you just minutes to break a window or climb through the trunk before interior temperatures reach the triple digits. What can you do to keep your child safe while traveling by car this summer? Read on to learn more about some tactics to prevent hot car accidents, as well as some escape tools that will allow you to quickly break your vehicle's window while minimizing damage.
What can you do to reduce the odds of forgetting that your child is in the backseat?
The design of modern car seats, along with the relative spaciousness of modern vehicles, has created a perfect storm of factors that can lead forgetful or sleep-deprived parents to unconsciously adopt an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. If you're unable to see your child from the driver's seat and he or she is sleeping or being quiet, you may simply forget that he or she is there. Therefore, it's important to either move your child to an area where he or she is always in sight (such as by installing mirrors on the back of your back seat facing your child, or an additional rear-view mirror on your dashboard) or create some type of memory-jogging device that you must touch or otherwise interact with before leaving the vehicle.
If you're the forgetful type or are regularly sleep-deprived, you may even want to invest in an alarm that sounds a signal whenever you exit the driver's seat for more than a few seconds without also unbuckling your child's car seat. These alarms use weight to determine occupancy and can help alert you if your child remains in the car seat long enough to be deemed "forgotten." You may be able to adjust the timing settings of your seat alarm to adapt to your own circumstances (for example, setting it to a minute or two if you regularly load your child into the car before putting groceries into the backseat, or to just a few seconds if you tend to turn around to unbuckle your child before getting out of the car).
What should you keep on hand to save your child if he or she accidentally becomes locked in the car?
Even a parent who takes every precaution in the book can find themselves dealing with a child who is too young to understand how to unlock a car, but was somehow able to lock him or herself (and the keys) inside. Your first instinct (if a spare key isn't available) may be to smash the window -- however, doing so with the wrong tool could send shards of glass flying into the car, potentially endangering your child and any rescue personnel. A better bet is to use a tool especially designed to shatter auto glass, allowing this glass to break into harmless squares and making it much easier (and less expensive) to replace your window later.
There are a number of emergency auto glass breakers available at survivalist stores or even big box retailers, although in an emergency you can use a spark plug to accomplish the same goal. If you're concerned about leaving this tool locked in the car as well, you can choose to mount it beneath your vehicle using a strong magnet (making it available in any situation) or keep a spare on hand in your garage.
If you've had to deal with this sort of situation already this summer, work with a collision repair company to get your car back in good shape. Remember to be safe out there!