Don’t Forget and Regret

Don’t Forget and Regret

This is one of the many messages we hear almost daily, especially in the HOT summer months related to the dangers of the heat and being left in an un-attended vehicle. Others are: Remember you Children and Pets in the Cars, Hot Cars Kill, and Look before you Lock, are part of many campaigns around the country to alert all caregivers to the potential dangers.

Though the media and other agencies are diligent in getting these messages out, we still have 37 children die a year due to hot car tragedies1. So far in 2017 we have lost 26 children. It is true that there may be many reasons for these deaths to occur, but on the average 54% of them are due to a distracted caregiver2. So why are these messages not working? There are a few reasons, (but 1st … it must be said that these continuous messages are needed, as they do help in supporting the circle of awareness to this problem), yet the challenges are:

These messages may not be getting to everyone… These messages are bringing the attention needed, but maybe at the wrong time…

Before we try to bring resolution to this problem we must also define “caregiver”. A caregiver is a: parent, grandparent, sibling, relative, babysitter, etc. So when we add in all these individuals and the viability when each may have responsibility of a child or even a pet, we now can see how complex of a problem this really is. I am sure that last statement will raise hairs on many people’s back, “complex problem”, “just be responsible and watch the child or pet”, many will say.

As to the distracted caregivers there may be real reasons for these situations to occur. But let’s look at a simple example to try to explain: image your office, desk, or refrigerator at home, etc. On them you may find One or Dozens of colored sticky papers on them. For what reason: to help remind you to do something. Though you know that task is important, you still put a sticky note to help remind you. The same is true in many other cases; companies have safety signs up, though all the employees have been trained, and so on…

So going back to the messages and campaigns that are in place today as described earlier, one of the possible reasons for the continual occurrences of this problem is that these messages are occurring at the wrong time, and maybe not reaching all that they should be.

Additionally, the truth is parents and other caregivers really do just honestly forget sometimes that their child or pet is still in the car when they leave it. A Pulitzer Prize winning article by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post in 2009 described how it can happen, and a majority of the time, it’s not a malicious act.

David Diamond, a professor of molecular physiology at the University of South Florida, explained to The Washington Post: Memory is a machine, and it is not flawless. Our conscious mind prioritizes things by importance, but on a cellular level, our memory does not. If you’re capable of forgetting your cellphone, you are potentially capable of forgetting your child.

Basically, when you have a daily routine, sometimes your brain goes on autopilot while you perform regular, familiar acts. Routines might change, and your memory gets confused. Suddenly, you might think you’ve done something like drop your toddler off at day care — because you do it every day, at the same time, as part of the same routine — when really, you didn’t.

So what can be done?

We need the daily reminder and campaigns that exist today, as they do have some impact. We need legislation to drive technology solution into future cars and car seats We need continued development of solutions and APPs to be placed into existing cars and car seats We need to entice caregivers to install such devices and APPs and maintain them, until there is a full proof solution