Cowart's Common Room
Harrowing article

I really don't recommend reading the Washington Post's article on deaths of toddlers and babies in hot cars. It is one of the most heart-wrenching things I've ever read and it is an excellent piece of journalism. Basically its conclusion is that anyone is capable of forgetting that there is a child in the back of a car, particularly if their rational mind has been weakened by stress and they are operating on the 'auto-pilot' animal part of their brains. It happens on a more regular basis now that we have been told to put children's car seats in the back of the car.

So don't read it if you know you're going to be upset by the subject matter, but I did want to mention that there are some sensible suggestions in there (and in the comments others have left on the article) about avoiding the situation happening. For example, leaving your work bag in the back of the car next to the child, or putting the baby's bag next to you on the front passenger seat, or setting up mirrors so that you can see the baby's face in your rear-view mirror.

My kids aren't toddlers anymore, but I can imagine being in charge of a grandchild one day and absent-mindedly carrying on with my usual routine, having forgotten about the child in the back of the car. None of the people mentioned in the article were neglectful, 'bad' parents. Just fatally stressed.

Posted at 11th Mar 2009 - 01:31PM   Posted by Mandahill   Harrowing article Comments: 9

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Milla's Avatar my God, that was some article. It is quite extraordinary. I was shaking, reading it. I've never done *that* but it does seem a there but for the grace of God story. A friend of mine did leave her son in his pram outside the breadshop and walk home without him. And only realised an hour later. That story had a happy ending but I feel for those parents in that article. Thanks Manda, in an upset but cathartic sort of way.

Posted by: Milla on 11th Mar 2009 at 02:14PM

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Exmoorjane's Avatar Thanks for reporting this, and so sensitively Mandahill. I won't read right now, as have the most horribly vivid imagination and know would give me nightmares (yes, awful ostrich behaviour). but what a very good warning indeed. No, not something I did (though hugely sleep-deprived when J was a baby) but, as Milla says, there but for the grace of God. Think this is something that needs to be pointed out to all mothers of young babies and children. Stress can indeed cause us to do the most insane things.
Would heartily advocate one of those mirrors that straps on below your reversing mirror (readily available, I think) so you get a really good clear view of the back seat (and the baby). Handbag next to baby a good idea too.

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 11th Mar 2009 at 02:26PM

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Preseli Mags's Avatar Like Jane I'll read the article later. I came across this once when I was a reporter. Some people found a baby locked in a car on a hot day in the local hospital's car park in great distress. They called the fire brigade and the station officer (who told me this story) arrived first. He found a group of people around the car all looking in. So he picked up a brick, bashed in the window and took the baby out. The people were horrified that he had damaged the car. His point was why had they not done the same? The police arrived then and went to find the baby's parents who, I think, were young, inexperienced and probably quite lucky on that occasion.

I also met a mum who said she was once in a shop buying chocolate and she could see a group of women admiring a baby parked in a carrier on top of the ice cream freezer. It was only when she went to admire the baby too that she remembered it was her own! She'd had chocolate goggles on.

I haven't yet managed to forget my children, (much as I have tried). Mine have always been too plain noisy to be overlooked! I've had nightmares about doing it, though. Having children does such strange things to the brain. Awful when it has tragic consequences.

Posted by: Preseli Mags on 11th Mar 2009 at 03:58PM

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Exmoorjane's Avatar Yup, little chance of forgetting James either.....far from being left in car he used to try to get out himself.... Old car didn't have child locks on the doors (i know, Iknow) and once, driving down windy Exmoor road and he managed to open the door.....steering with one hand while other tried to get door shut, all the while dodging pheasants.....

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 11th Mar 2009 at 05:23PM

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Milla's Avatar that sounds horribly familiar. T12 when T2 managed to open the door on the motorway. My how we laughed. Luckily I'd only just set off from an enforced danger-stop on the hard shoulder appeasing him mid-monster-scream. Happy days.

Posted by: Milla on 11th Mar 2009 at 06:26PM

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Mountainear's Avatar Definitely a case of 'there but for the grace of God....' We left the youngest - 10 weeks old - in a Spanish supermarket. My excuse was that I went in pushing something (a baby buggy) and came out pushing something - a trolley. Where I switched I'm not clear.

In the good old days they used to get parked outside shops in their prams all the time - I shudder to think about it now.

Posted by: Mountainear on 11th Mar 2009 at 06:30PM

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Westerwitch's Avatar Gawd once left Wildchild at home in her child seat . . .I haven't read the article too upsetting.

Posted by: Westerwitch on 11th Mar 2009 at 09:10PM

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Patsy's Avatar Can't bear to even look...

Posted by: Patsy on 11th Mar 2009 at 09:23PM

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Faith's Avatar I won't be reading the article either but it's such a valid point to make. I will mention it to a mum I know who has just had a new baby, and has two teens already so is def stressed. My aunt, years ago, left her pram outside a shop, went in, bought her goods, came out, forgot baby and went home on the bus!

I wonder in the fireman smashing car window scenario, if a member of the public had done that - what wouldve happened? Yes the baby wouldnt have, maybe, boiled to death but would the parents have realised the danger and been grateful, or sued for damage to car. The fireman had the 'authority' to do it.

Posted by: Faith on 12th Mar 2009 at 08:36AM

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