The “That Would Never Happen to Me” Mindset is Bullshit

“That would never happen to me.”

Ever find yourself thinking that? I know I have from time to time.

Certainly there are instances when that statement is true. I know with certainty, for example, that I’ll never fall victim to the unpredictable weather at the tippy top of Mount Everest, because I’m lazy as shit, and happen to enjoy breathing oxygenated air. Boom.


But these words are also thrown around in far more realistic and tragic situations.

“That would never happen to me” is a thought that crosses the minds of many people upon hearing about the death of a child after an accident, but it seems especially pervasive when discussing kids who perish after being left in a hot car.

Saying “that would never happen to me” is a gut reaction, made both out of a desire to protect yourself from the hurt, and as a way to assure yourself that because of your stellar parenting, you’ll never have to personally experience it. You’d never let that happen! You’re on your game!


But guys, this reaction is bullshit, because it could happen to you.

The truth is this horrible, unimaginable tragedy happens to everyday good parents. Just like you. Just like me.

On average, 37 kids in the US die every year from heat stroke. Every single one of these deaths are preventable. I’m positive that if you were to ask these grieving parents if they ever thought something like this could happen to them, they’d have answered with a resounding “no.” (This obviously doesn’t not pertain to the small portion of vile people who do this with the intention of murdering their kid. There’s a special circle in hell for folks like that.)

Saying “that would never happen to me” may make you feel better about the situation, but in no way does it serve as a reliable precaution that will keep something like this from actually happening.


We take precautions to keep other tragic accidents from harming our kids.

We buy baby gates to keep them from tumbling down the stairs. We install locks on the windows to keep them from posing a fall risk. We put outlet covers on our electrical sockets and lower the temperature of our water heaters. We secure our dressers and bookshelves from being toppled over. Yet when it comes to the very real possibility of mistakenly leaving your kid in the car, many simply believe no preventative measures must be taken, because “that would never happen to me.”


The lives of 42 kids were cut short in 2017, and we are left wondering how such a thing could happen.

Each case is different, but in general, these are some common themes:

  • According to the National Safety Council, incidents peek between Memorial Day and Labor Day, though caution should be used year round.
  • Stress and fatigue can contribute to mistakes as the brain’s “habit” memory (the autopilot part) overrides the “prospective” memory (the part that remembers a future task, like taking a kid out of the car). This makes it easy to forget things that are out of routine. Statistics show these tragedies often occur when the normal schedule and routines have been thrown off (think, different parent or caretaker, dropping a kid off at daycare).
  • While trends show the temperature outside is typically above 80 degrees, a baby succumbed to fatal heat stroke last summer after being locked in a truck for 1 hour in 67-degree weather.
  • The vast majority of these were children under the age of one.


So what do we do to ensure our child isn’t the next victim?

For starters, we drop the “it would never happen to me” mentality. It could happen to you. Yes, this is scary to admit, but none of us are perfect, and all of us are exhausted/stressed/busy as hell/hanging on to our sanity by an itty-bitty thread.


Next, we take some precautions.

By working with spouses and caretakers, and establishing a routine with how you take your kids in and out of your car, you can help to reduce the chance of an accident like this happening. Your routine may look different, but these are some places to start:

  • Leave something you need (like your left shoe, wallet, or your phone) in the backseat of the car. (And y’all, don’t even START with the “your phone shouldn’t be more important than your kid” thing. It’s not about importance, it’s about doing something constant that makes you look before you lock.)
  • Have a protocol set up with your daycare where if the child isn’t dropped off or is late, someone contacts you.
  • Keep a stuffed animal (or something similar) in the car seat, and every time you put the child in, bring the stuffed animal into the front with you.
  • Make a “look before you leave” routine before you get out of the car.
  • There is technology being developed to alert the driver of the potential of a child being left behind, but not all cars have it.
  • Keep your car locked at all times so your kid can’t accidentally climb in it.
  • If you can’t find your child, first check the pool (if you have one), and then the car, including the trunk.

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not always a result of stupidity, or a busy parent, wrapped up on their phone. A couple of brave souls have opened up to discuss their own experiences with forgetting their baby in the car, and explain the circumstances here and here. Both stories have happy endings and are worth a read if you can’t fathom how this could happen.

Brushing off the potential of an accident like leaving your kid in the car with the “that would never happen to me” response is dangerous. Changing your mindset from thinking you’re immune to accidents like this, to admitting accidents like this can happen to anyone brings it to the forefront of your mind. Hopefully this shift can make the difference between a normal day, and a tragedy beyond measure.

Our next recos:

Baby Sun Safety 

Finding the Best Infant Car Seat

9 Common Car Seat Mistakes that Parents Make

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  • Guess what? It never happened to me.
    I have 3 children, 18, 19, 20 and I NEVER forgot they were in the car, never left them in the car accidentally or on purpose. Honestly, what kind of person could be so distracted that they forgot they had their infant in the car.
    I have zero sympathy for people who do this, there is NO excuse.

    • I wish I could honestly say that this has never happened to me but it has. I had come out of the store from shopping with my little girl and laid the keys on the front seat to strap her in the car seat. I reached to push the unlock button for the doors unknowingly pushing the lock button. As soon as I realized what I had done I absolutely panicked. I ran into the store and asked them to please call the police to come unlock my car because I had accidently locked the doors instead of unlocking them with my keys on the seat and my baby strapped in her car seat. I was a total mess when the cops finally arrived and were able to open the door. I unstrapped my daughter, took her into the air conditioner and got her something cold to drink and held her and cried for quite sometime. Accidents happen everyday people. I’m just glad my situation turned out so wonderful

      • I’m sorry that happened to you but in complete honesty I would have picked up anything and busted through a window to get to my baby. Of course, when I panic I can become aggressive. We live in Florida, the heat is no joke!!!

  • I’m here to say I thought I was one of those parents this could never happen to, but here I am telling my story, thankfully mine doesn’t end tragically.

    When my third child was about 5 months old I had to run an errand on a Sunday. Normally my Sunday’s follow the same routine always, so this particular Sunday the fact that I had to run into Costco to pick up a party tray for a dinner was out of the norm for me. I had done my normal activities with the baby tagging along just fine, but for some reason when I got to Costco I completely forgot she was in the car. She had fallen asleep, so maybe just the quietness combine with mom brain thinking about what I needed at Costco. Either way I went in, did my shopping and came back out, 20 minutes max. When I opened the back door of my SUV to put the food in the car, I nearly dropped the party tray when I saw her sweet sweaty face still peacefully sleeping. I immediately grabbed her out of her seat to make sure she was breathing, as I had her in my arms knowing she was still alive, I hit my knees crying hysterically. Once I pulled myself together just a little bit, I called my husband and told him what happen, I verbally abused myself to the worst degree possiable. I felt like the worst mother alive at the moment, I didn’t feel worthy to be called a mother and I doubted my ability to take care of my children. He assured me I’m a good mom who just slipped up. I finally got the strength to drive home and cried for a week in bed holding my baby.

    Today she’s 4 and I’m pregnant with my 4th. I’m much more cautious now and it’s not an event that I will ever, ever forget. So yes it does happen to good parents. Thank you for bringing this to people’s attention.

  • YES but you have to remember that parents now don’t need anyones help, dont want to be told how to parent or that they might be parenting “wrong”. I had a neighbor that regularily let her toddler child play in the car and I said nothing as I was once berated for mentioning that playing in a hot car in the summer is not a good idea. YES I’m old but I was not saying it to her to feel superior, I was saying it to her as I had real fear for the childs life. I never said a thing to her ever again and I will never say anything again, I LEARNED my lesson. This nosy old bag etc etc. At one time we were a community that took care of others and you could be safe letting your kids play outside, now we have to look the other way in case we offend someone etc

  • It terrifies me of that occurring that where ever I’m traveling I use an app calls Waze and it is says “Teddy” when I reach my destination.

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