Steps to steer clear of forgotten-baby syndrome

A demonstration, using a doll, of the proper way to secure a baby in the car seat at the campaign launch. Forgotten baby syndrome often happens when parents are distracted or stressed. — Photos: WILLIAM GARY/The Star

Selangor govt’s campaign includes distribution of pamphlets, stickers and stakeholder engagement

The Selangor government and a city council are taking proactive steps to prevent the next parent from forgetting their child in a parked car.

The state government is distributing car stickers as visual reminders to parents about their young children being in the back seat.

Shah Alam City Council plans to make announcements on its digital signboards and via loudspeakers at public squares in support of the state initiative.

These moves are in response to recent tragic cases due to the “forgotten baby syndrome”.

On Jan 30, a five-year-old girl died after her mother accidentally left her in a parked car in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Anfaal showing the pamphlet and sticker during the launch.Anfaal showing the pamphlet and sticker during the launch.

The hospital employee had picked up her daughter from daycare at 2pm but in rushing to work, she had forgotten that the little girl was in the back seat.

It was only after receiving a call from her husband at around 6pm that the mother realised to her horror what had happened.

A similar tragedy occurred in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya in Selangor, on Nov 8 last year when a two-year-old died after being left in a car for over seven hours.

The child’s mother intended to drop her off at daycare after sending her two other children to school.

However, she forgot to drop the toddler off and proceeded to drive home, only realising the toddler was still in the car at about 3.35pm.

The parents involved said they had forgotten about their child as they had a lot of things on their mind.

Ahmad Razif: All new cars should be equipped with sensor technology.Ahmad Razif: All new cars should be equipped with sensor technology.

Following the two fatal cases of young children being forgotten in parked cars in Selangor last year and one so far this year, the state government has launched its “Children’s Safety in Car and Family Wellbeing” campaign.

“Our hearts go out to these parents who have lost a child this way, especially since it is preventable,” said Selangor women and family empowerment, welfare and care economy committee chairman Anfaal Saari during the campaign launch in Hospital Selayang.

“Lifestyles are getting busier and people rush around to get things done.

“When they are stressed or get sidetracked, we are going to see cases of children left in cars unintentionally,” she said.

Comprehensive campaign

Under the campaign, a visual reminder in the form of a sticker was introduced to prompt parents to check if their children are in back seats before exiting their vehicles.

Anfaal said the sticker, which is to be placed on the driver’s side window, close to the door handle, has the words “Look behind” and “Where is your child now?” in Bahasa Malaysia.

“Our aim is to prevent ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ (FBS),” she said.

Dr Afidah: It is so much easier to judge people than to understand how FBS can occur.Dr Afidah: It is so much easier to judge people than to understand how FBS can occur.

FBS refers to a phenomenon in which young children are mistakenly left in vehicles.

Anfaal said the first phase would see 10,000 stickers distributed at premises of government agencies.

The second phase involves the distribution of 50,000 stickers targeting commercial establishments.

Pamphlets on preventing FBS will be distributed too.

Dr Hargeet says a toy can be kept in the front seat to reinforce a child’s presence in the car.Dr Hargeet says a toy can be kept in the front seat to reinforce a child’s presence in the car.

“The state government is also considering implementing initiatives to complement existing policies.

“One measure is providing dedicated parking spaces for parents at hotspots such as hospitals and government premises,” she said.

Selangor Nursery Association principal consultant Ahmad Razif Shazi Shaarani was one of those involved in the campaign.

He said the second phase would see engagement sessions with NGOs and government agencies in May or June.

“Focus will also be given to parents’ mental health and wellbeing,” he said.

Cheremi says MBSA will start public service announcements soon to support the campaign.Cheremi says MBSA will start public service announcements soon to support the campaign.

Ahmad Razif said the third phase of the campaign in October aimed to address the root causes of the problem and finding long-term solutions.

“It is time that car manufacturers are directed to equip all new vehicles with sensor technology that will alert the driver.

“There is currently no such requirement in current car designs,” he noted.

Compassion needed

Hospital Selayang director Dr Afidah Ali said a child could suffer fatal heatstroke if left in a car even for minutes.

“The temperature inside a car parked outside is much hotter than the air around it.

“The heat does not easily pass back through the wound-up window, so it is trapped inside the car,” she explained.

She hoped people would show compassion to parents who had lost a child in such circumstances.

“It is so much easier to judge people than to understand how it can occur,” she said.

Dr Afidah said that having stickers on the driver’s window could help remind parents and save lives.

“Campaigns like this promote awareness among target groups, particularly parents, caregivers and the public,” she said.

Consultant adolescent paediatrician Dr Hargeet Kaur Basant Singh said FBS could occur when parents were thinking about future tasks rather than focusing on the present moment.

This can be very dangerous, particularly if the toddler or preschooler is quiet or asleep, she said.

She encouraged parents to adopt several simple practices.

“Placing a plush toy in the front passenger’s seat reinforces the presence of a child in the vehicle.

“Before leaving the vehicle, conduct a comprehensive check of both the front and rear seats,” she added.

Dr Hargeet said forgetting a child in the car was more likely to happen when there was a disruption in the parent’s usual routine.

“Most of the time, FBS occurs when parents who do not typically take their child to daycare or a babysitter follow the same daily route to and from work and are functioning on autopilot mode,” she said.

Timely reminders

Selangor police officer Inspector Natalie anak Allin advised parents to use their smartphones to send a reminder to leave their child at daycare centre or check the back seat.

“This would reduce the likelihood of accidentally leaving a child in the car after they park the vehicle,” she said.

Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) plans to start public service announcements (PSA) to remind drivers to “look behind” and check if a child is in the back seat before exiting the vehicle.

Mayor Cheremi Tarman told StarMetro the city council would soon start the PSA through 50 loudspeakers attached to MBSA’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to prevent FBS.

“MBSA wants to do its part to support the Selangor government’s ‘Children’s Safety in Car and Family Wellbeing’ campaign.

“It is important to remind drivers to check their back seat when visiting shopping complexes, utility companies or government departments,” he added.

Cheremi said the city council was also looking at screening the messages “Look behind” and “Where is your child now?” on MBSA’s digital boards.

“We have digital screens at Dataran Shah Alam, Dataran Kemerdekaan Shah Alam, Concorde Hotel intersection and Bulatan Kayangan,” he added.

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