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Many parents place unforgettable items - purses, briefcases, employee badges - next to the child’s car seat, while others literally leash themselves to it so they can’t leave without the child.

Mrs. Fennell supports laws forbidding anyone from leaving a child unattended in a car. She also wants to see the auto industry create sensors and seat-belt alarms for back seats. She theorizes that the all-out effort in the mid-1990s to protect children from accidental deaths from front-seat air bags by putting them in back seats has led to the unintended consequence of too many adults accidentally forgetting their children in vehicles.

“Out of sight, out of mind,” says Mrs. Fennell, who notes that while virtually no children now die from air bags, child hyperthermia deaths have gone from three deaths a year to about one death every 10 days.

“This is totally preventable,” Mrs. Fennell says. “Rather than have the auto industry and government and other people talking about bad parents, we need them to come together and solve this problem.”

Cheryl Wetzstein’s column appears on Tuesdays and Sundays. She can be reached at cwetzstein@washington