Too many babies & kids are dying after being left in cars
Written by Olivia Richardson: 11-October-2013
We’ve heard more and more stories in the news recently of parents leaving kids in the car on sweltering-hot days while they scoot out for a sec, or even more tragically – forgetting that their baby is even sitting in the back, until fatal hours later.
According to the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, temperature levels inside cars can reach 40°C in just seven minutes. It says babies and young children should never be left unattended – not even for a brief time (what if something happens to you while you’re away from the car, for a start; or if you get distracted and forget they're in there?).
Tragically, in the past month, two babies (one in Perth and one in the US) died in cars after their fathers left them in the car for hours without remembering they were meant to drop them off at daycare.
And the number don't get any better. In the US alone, as many as 50 children die each year from being left inside cars – 40 per cent of these are from the parent or carer forgoting to drop the child at daycare or to their babysitter. Rear-facing baby capsules make it even harder to remember or see babies in the rear-view mirror, as they're facing the other way.
Apart from the tragic loss, there's also possible legal action. Last year, a Bendigo mother was charged with manslaughter and conduct endangering life after she left her six-month-old in the car for about two-and-a-half hours before realising her daughter was still in there. The baby died. This is apparently the second case in 20 years in Australia where legal action has occured.
As found on ABC News, memory expert, Dr Matthew Mundy, from the School of Psychology and Psychiatry at Monash University says memory lapses like these can happen to any parent, if we’re not careful.
"For our drive to work, we've formed an autopilot to how to get there and a part of the brain that takes over when those sorts of things happen is called the basal ganglia," Dr Mundy explains.
"This part of the brain is relatively primitive and it sort of monitors our routine motor skills for us. And so while we're driving to work or whilst we're making a cup of tea, we might not be aware of exactly all the decisions that we're making.
"They're actually not conscious to us. And because of that, because we're not consciously making those decisions to turn left and turn right or put the sugar in at the right time, if something distracts us, if maybe a car cuts us off or if the telephone rings, we might miss a step."
So what can we do?
Helpful suggestions we’ve heard include:
- Put your handbag, wallet, phone or other item you know you won’t forget on the left-hand side of the baby seat, so you literally have to reach over the baby, from the driver’s door side, to get them.
- Daycares having an SMS or call service where they contact parents if their child hasn’t arrived for the day yet.
- Jeanette Fennell, founder of kids and cars safety website kidsandcars.org, suggests: “Put a stuffed animal in the child's car seat and always have it in there, but right before you are going to place the child in the car, take the stuffed animal and set it up front on the passenger seat, because then you've got this visual reminder."
What suggestions can you offer?