Tragically a toddler died in Milton yesterday after being left in a hot car. I am going to make a guess about what some of you are thinking, because I used to think it too: How does anyone forget their kid in the car? But then I read (and warning: this piece is incredibly graphic if also really really well done) Gene Weingarten's 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning piece Fatal Distraction, and I learned why it is caring, even organized parents can make that mistake. In brief:
- Rear-facing carseats, which are great for the much more likely event that one is in a car accident, contribute to children being left in cars, because you don't see whether there's a child or not in them from the front seat.
- The issue is not that "parents forget" their child. It's more common that something disrupts a really well-worn groove in a parent's routine, like the daily commute. Driving itself contributes -- have you ever driven somewhere with something else on your mind and not really remembered the drive? It's that neurological state kicking in.
- Sleep deprivation can play a role: The baby has a cold, both the parent and the baby are tired, the baby falls asleep, that parent doesn't usually do drop-off or gets a phone call and misses the turn to daycare.... (Yet another reason for not being on the phone in the car.)
- As caring as we parents all are, we wouldn't be able to function well if we worried about our kids incessantly while they are in the care of others. So if we think our child is say, at daycare, we won't be checking in with our memory to see whether we dropped them off or not.
- Put something you need like your purse, cell phone, etc. at the base of the car seat so you are forced to look in the back seat.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's carseat and when the child's in the seat move it to the front passenger seat. (I freely admit I never did this, but if I knew I were suffering from a lack of sleep I might have.)
- Make arrangements with your child care that you will call if the child isn't there; ask that they call you if your child does not arrive and they have not heard from you