“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 hate the cold with the passion of a thousand suns.
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, as well 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.
Now I’m not trying to get all Geraldo Rivera on you, and unnecessarily scare you into thinking you have tropical butt worms making your hiney a home after eating that sketchy mango yesterday, but I want to get something straight: this happens to everyday, good parents. Just like you. Just like me.
Already this year, 24 kids have died, and every single one of these deaths was 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 to take in order to 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 falling down the stairs. We install locks on the windows to keep them from being opened too far, and posing a falling 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.”
So far this year, the lives of 24 kids have been cut short, 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 this 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 by 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. Finding a routine that works for you may look different for everybody, 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.
- 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 being 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, and can hopefully make the difference between a normal day, and a tragedy beyond measure.