Alright, I’ll be the first to admit it – when I see the horrible headlines about a child losing their life to Hyperthermia (aka Heat Stroke) in a vehicle I wonder “What in the hell is wrong with the imbecile who could do something so horrible?!?”
I mean seriously, what type of a monster could be capable of such of such a thing?
As it turns out — the wealthy do. And the poor. And the middle class. Loving parents of all ages and ethnicities do it — and mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It has happened to a a dentist, a loving social worker, a postal clerk, and a Veterinarian. It even happened to a minister of music in a church parking lot.
I am 100% guilty of having judged these individuals to be monsters by all accounts. Anytime I would hear a tragic story about a child losing their life in a hot car I would instantly think to myself —”Those parents need to be shot”. I feel awful for having ignorantly assumed that this could only happen to bad, unfit parents — people who were neglecting their children to imbibe in alcohol and drugs— never once did I consider that such a tragedy could occur to loving, doting parents who were deceived by a tragic lapse in their memory.
I thank God for putting this article in front of me, which subsequently led me to this MIND-BLOWING article which opened up my ignorant, closed-minded eyes to the fact that this actually IS a problem in our society, forever changing my perspective. Initially I felt so guilty for having judged — but then I realized that only made ME feel better — the only true redemption of my guilt can come through vigilant awareness in helping make individuals be aware of this danger.
I don’t care WHO you are – this tragedy can happen to anyone
Hear me out: While I am in no way saying this is something that “just happens” and that we should come to accept these horrific tragedies, I just want you to know that our brains are incredible pieces of machinery that are subconsciously capable of “preserving” our brain power by going on autopilot when we are doing a routine we are familiar with. Has there ever been a time that you have driven home from work without remembering the journey? A distracted brain can get stuck on autopilot, which is what tends to allow parents to believe they have left the child at daycare.
This tends to happen most frequently when there is a deviation from the normal routine: Road construction forces you to take a detour to get to work, dad is the one handling the drop-off instead of mom, or any other change in the normal schedule. The change in plans can cause mom or dad to get distracted, causing them to forget about the sleeping baby in the back so they can focus on the task at hand. These parents believe that their children are safe — until a conversation or action causes them to suddenly realize their fatal mistake.
Haven’t you ever had that feeling where all of a sudden, in one conversation or random train of thought – you realize that something absolutely awful just happened, while at the exact same time your mind is rolling through a reel of the movie of “I shoulda/coulda/woulda’s”. I know that feeling – it’s terrible – and I cannot even fathom the idea of that feeling being multiplied by a trillion-billion…but that is exactly what these parents are going through.
What has led to this epidemic
In one of the ironies of vehicle safety, the number of hyperthermia deaths in cars has skyrocketed since the early 1990s, when the advent of airbags led to directives that young children be placed in the back seats of cars and in rear-facing car seats for infants.
That position makes it easier to overlook babies — even for the most conscientious parent — combined with the fact that the victims are rarely old enough to speak up for themselves when left behind.
That is why it is important that we educate ourselves and those we love on this danger — myself included. I now am aware that this is a dangerous problem that we need to be aware of — it can happen to anyone. It’s easy for people (i.e. ME) to think the only way a parent could forget their child is due to recklessness or criminal behavior, but this mindset doesn’t leave much room for awareness, just judgement. Awareness is the key to preventing such a horrible, unintended tragedy.
- Baby Reminder App
- Heatstroke prevention tips for parents and caregivers (NHSTA.gov)
- Top tips for preventing Hyperthermia (SafeKids.org)
- Safe for Life (Safecar.gov)
- Another Child dies in a hot car — Why was this a crime?
- Heat Danger: 500th child dies in hot car (Consumer Reports)
- Hot Cars: A deadly Danger (Consumer Reports)
- Would you forget your baby in a hot car?
- Tragedy in the backseat
- Forgotten Baby Syndrome
- Two children die in hot cars as risky season begins