A new non-profit is starting up in Cincinnati, and while its message is simple its purpose is anything but. Bag in the Back focuses on preventing Vehicular Heat Stroke, a devastating death that can be avoided with awareness. The organization has two primary goals (1) to educate people about the dangers of Vehicular Heat Stroke and (2) to stimulate the habit change of placing a personal item in the backseat.
The nonprofit was started by Karen M. Osorio and her husband Henrique Aveiro. On August 23, 2017, their daughter, Sofia Victoria Aveiro died tragically by a hot car death while both parents were at work. Karen is a Procter and Gamble employee who, while driving to work, believed she dropped Sofia off at daycare. After a full day while Karen was at work, Sofia passed away in the car from overheating. However, Karen never “forgot” about Sofia, spending the entire day checking her daycare app to see what Sofia was eating, what she was doing, and more. Unfortunately, the information was not updated from the day prior, and because babies typically have the same snacks and activities at daycare, it seemed like a typical day for Sofia.
Devastatingly, Sofia became victim to pediatric vehicular heatstroke. This occurs when a child is intentionally or not, left behind. Temperatures in the car skyrocket, causing the baby’s body temperature to increases to a level where major organs shut down. On average, 37 children die each year because of this heartbreaking situation. But while education about vehicular heat stroke is important, it is also essential to realize how easily you could be in a similar event. 54% of children that die in the car are unknowingly left by a caregiver, 20% are knowingly left in the car, and 30% of children get inside the car on their own and cannot get out. For this reason and others, even leaving your baby in a car for a moment can be potentially fatal.
The most common and dangerous misconception about vehicular heat stroke is to think leaving a child alone in a vehicle could never happen to you, when in fact anyone can be at risk. It has happened to a teacher, dentist, police officer, clergyman, even a rocket scientist. It has happened to people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, genders and ethnicities. The majority of those affected are loving parents who have done so unknowingly and often without awareness of this potential risk. This is typically because of some imagined memory or a memory-processing error that led them to think they had dropped their child off. These “brain mistakes” include:
auto-pilot due to a change in routine. For example, if one usually stops at a store after daycare before work but instead stops at the store before daycare, it could mess up the routine.
auto-pilot due to stressful situation. For example, if there is a change in a plan and then one experiences a stressful situation, like a narrowly missed car accident, one might forget the change.
false memory due to imagination inflation. After imagining a scenario your brain mistakenly believes it actually happened. Many parents reported who they talked to at drop-off, what the teachers said, etc., imagining the scenario prior and creating a false memory.
While Bag in the Back advocates for an increase in vehicular heat stroke awareness, the non-profit also aims to create a lifestyle change. Since 1998, when researchers began collecting data on this phenomenon, the number of deaths have been consistent. However, in 1978 legislation was passed that forced children to sit in the back seat, and different state laws have recommended the children to be rear-facing. With these safety guidelines however, comes the increasing risk that a quiet baby may slip from a parent’s awareness. For this reason, Bag in the Back teaches parents to place a personal item—purse, cell phone, shoe, briefcase—in the back seat so they are reminded to check the backseat for any sleeping passengers. Parents are recommended to practice this habit even when their child is not with them, in order to stimulate this habit growth. According to a survey conducted by The Sofia Foundation for Children’s Safety, “almost 60% of parents with a child 3 years or younger aren’t taking action to prevent accidentally leaving their children in the car.” While some parents perform other actions, as represented in the graph below, a simple fix to this is placing a personal item in the back. Because this call-to-action is relatively new, there is not much data covering the effectiveness. However it can be assumed that even a small action like this can have powerful life-saving consequences by causing the parent to take an extra look.
Karen is determined to raise awareness of pediatric Vehicular Heat Stroke through the Sofia Foundation for Children’s Safety, where the seemingly simple slogan of Bag in the Back can save future lives. She is focused on transforming the beauty of Sofia’s life into an inspiration for people to learn about vehicular heat stroke and prevent the tragic phenomenon. Let your neighbors, parents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else know about The Sofia Foundation for Children’s Safety Message, even a short conversation and ‘miniscule’ habit change can go a long way. Please visit the Bag in the Back Website and Bag in the Back Video to learn more and share.