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Parents realize they forgot toddler at rest stop — 90 miles ago

When you’re headed out on a family road trip, you might think the worst thing that could happen would be a child proclaiming that they need to use the bathroom before you even get on the highway. But one family dealt with a true emergency when they realized they left their daughter behind at a rest station.

A French couple were traveling to the coast for a family vacation with their three children when they made a terrible mistake. The family stopped at a highway rest station, but they accidentally left without their 3-year-old daughter. The parents claim that when they got into the car and back on the road, they asked their two older children, a boy and a girl, if everything was all right, and the children said it was. No one noticed that the 3-year-old wasn’t in the car.

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Luckily, another family at the rest area saw the young child, and after they realized she was alone, they contacted the authorities and stayed with her until help arrived. The little girl told police that her parents drove away and was able to describe her family’s car. The family continued on their way for a whopping 90 miles before they heard a police bulletin on the radio and realized their awful mistake. The drive back to their daughter must have felt like it took forever. The family was happily reunited and the matter is being referred to the local police, but authorities report the incident appears to be an honest, albeit unfortunate, mistake.

Remember that scene in Home Alone where the family sleeps through their alarm and they’re all rushing to try and catch their flight at the airport? With all the luggage in the car and so many kids, no one even realized little Kevin wasn’t in the van. The scene may have caused you to chuckle back then, but it seems a lot less funny when you imagine it happening to you in real life with your own children.

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This family is extremely lucky that their daughter is safe and that another family took notice of her and did the right thing by asking where her parents were. Highway rest stops are often very busy, with lots of traffic and people rushing to get back on the road, so it’s amazing that this little girl wasn’t hurt by a moving vehicle.

While this is obviously an extreme and thankfully rare situation, it raises the importance of taking the time to do a head count before you leave anywhere, especially when you’re far from home and in an unfamiliar environment. It also reminds us that it’s necessary to teach young children basic identifying information like their name, their address and the names of their parents. Many people are used to storing numbers in their cell phones and don’t know their own phone numbers or the numbers of close family and friends, but we should all — even 3-year-olds — have emergency contact numbers memorized. Teaching children your number so they can contact you in case you get separated is essential. If they’re not old enough to learn it (or you’re afraid they’ll forget), you can also opt to put a temporary tattoo with your number on your child or write your number on the bottom of your toddler’s shoe.

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Hopefully, this family’s story will remind other parents to double-check the backseat before pulling out onto the open road. The worst part of a road trip should be running out of snacks, not leaving a child behind.

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