Ozarks Regional YMCA Hopes to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A hot car, a distracted parent, a dead child. It happens somewhere in the U.S. every summer, but the stories are no less tragic.

That's why we reached out to a local child care provider who oversees dozens of kids to see what they're doing this summer to ensure no parent receives that phone call.

According to the safety organization Kids and Cars, an average of 37 children die each year in hot cars in the U.S.  These include instances where a child has been forgotten in a car, accidentally locked themselves in a car.

It can happen to anyone. To the people we trust most as a society with our children: Principals, teachers and day care workers.

"I think most parents feel like whenever take their kids somewhere they are being taken care of," explains Erica Rizzeio, a mother of three. 

Rizzeio takes all precautions to protect her children from being left in a hot car.

"I try not to go anywhere that I can't take them inside with me. If I need to go grocery shopping and I don't want them to go with me I totally have to rearrange my schedule.

Just days ago, in Arkansas, a 5-year-old boy died after being left in a day care van.

"I know it's different maybe as a daycare worker, but like when you hear about parents leaving their kids in the car I don't understand that at all. How do you forget them?"

Courtney Simpkins is the School Age Services Program Director at the Ozarks Regional YMCA. She tells KOLR10," we have families that come and they leave their kids and they trust us to provide them with a safe, fun environment."

"It is scary because being a child care provider we do it because we love children."

The Ozarks Regional YMCA tries hard to make sure kid's summers are full of fun, but safety is a priority.

"It is very essential because we have those kids lives in our hands if you think about it for the day."

The "Y" has several policies to ensure that children are not left in hot cars when going on field trips.

"Once our kids get ready to get on the bus we do a count of all our kids in the building so we know exactly how many kids we have in our program, we know them by face."

If a child has not arrived the center calls  parents to make sure the child is not forgotten in the car.

"Just make sure and the parents know as well if their kids are going to miss for a day or week they call and let us know to. So that way we know we don't need to worry about Timmy for that week."

Rizzeio says thanks to the policy, she feels that her child is more safe.

"The goal is not to be worried about them when they're somewhere," says Rizzeio.

To prevent future tragedies the "Y" suggests

  • Placing a phone, purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle, or writing a note or using a stuffed animal placed in the driver's view to indicate a child is in the car seat.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away;
  • Ask the childcare provider to call if the child doesn't show up for care as expected;
  • Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach;
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle - even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
  • As far as leaving a reminder some parents have suggested putting a shoe in the backseat since it's not something you can easily forget.

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