Every year, you hear those horrible stories on the news. Stories of mothers who forgot that their baby was in the backseat of the car when they headed off to work. Stories of dads who didn't realize those scalding hot belt buckles were actually leaving burn marks on their kids. Or on the less traumatic end of things — stories of families on vacation who got so sunburned on the car ride to the beach that they couldn't even enjoy the waves.

It's easy to believe that these are things that happen to other people. Other families. Certainly not your own. But then you remember how often you have been distracted during the morning routine and driven on autopilot to work rather than to your baby's summertime caregiver. Or ignored your baby's fussing in the backseat and chalked it up to teething or lack of sleep, or any of a number of things that might make your baby cry, never thinking that it might actually be the hot buckle on the car seat that is making her scream.

It's easy to put your brain in park during the lazy hazy days of summer. But now more than ever is the time to be diligent about kids' health and safety, particularly in the car. Keep these tips in the back of your mind as you coast along through summer to make sure your kids stay safe in the car.

  • Never leave your kids in a closed car in the summer by themselves. Not for a quick dash into the convenience store. Not to drop something off at a friends' house and certainly not to run into the house for one more thing. You never know what is going to distract you on the other end. A ringing phone, a neighbor in distress, or a long line for lottery tickets are just a few of the things you could encounter. Take your kids with you. Or at the very least, park in the shade and make sure all windows are open before you make that dash.
  • Get in the habit of stowing your stuff in the backseat — your lunch, your briefcase, your purse. Even if you don't normally have the kids in the car with you. Especially if you don't normally have the kids in the car with you. Because it may just save you on a day when you do.
  • Feel the seat belts before the kids buckle up. Too hot? Run the AC for a few minutes to bring down the temp.
  • Don't forget the sunscreen before your next road trip. And grab a window shade if you know your kids will be in the sun for hours.
Summertime safety for kids in cars
Keep your kids smiling in the backseat with these summertime safety tips for the car.