Each year as the weather begins to heat up and summer’s officially in full swing, the same tragic headlines begin to roll in. A parent absentmindedly leaves a sleeping baby in the back seat on a warm day, or a toddler slips into the family vehicle when no one’s looking.
Whatever the case, accidental hot car deaths are a scary reminder of what can happen when children are left unattended in the heat, even for short periods of time. In an attempt to prevent this occurring, a police force is hoping to help cut the number of children who die in hot cars by giving out free reminders for parents to keep in their vehicles.
In a June 25 Facebook post, the O’Fallon Missouri Police Department announced it would be giving away free rearview mirror tags to the public:
The mirror tags could be life-saving, when you consider how easily these deaths can happen. Hot car deaths may be small in comparison to the number of other vehicle-related deaths, but are preventable.
Many other hot car deaths begin with something many parents live in fear of: a simple case of forgetfulness that ultimately leads to tragedy. Such was the case for Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero and her husband, Brett, who lost their infant daughter Sophia “Ray Ray” in 2017.
As Kristie mentions it happened on the kind of day we all have from time to time: baby Sophia — who by that point had become the family alarm clock — randomly overslept, which then caused her parents to oversleep, and run late to work.
The morning was then thrown into the kind of rushed chaos we’re all familiar with, except for one small mistake that triggered a tragic chain of events: Instead of dropping Ray Ray off at day care, Brett absentmindedly drove straight to work — and forgot about his sleeping baby in the back seat.
“That morning he took a right-hand turn instead of a left,” Reeves-Cavaliero said, looking back. “And so our tragedy started with one single wrong turn.” Hours later the infant was found unresponsive in the back of Brett’s car, first responders said it was heat-related illness.
According to the National Safety Council, of around 800 children who died in hot cars in the United States in the last 20 years more than half happened because a caregiver forgot they were there. Dr. David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, has been studying what some have dubbed “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” for years.
And while it may not be what most parents want to hear, Diamond said, “Any person is capable of forgetting their child.” But after speaking with dozens of parents who have lost their child in this way, Diamond says he’s noticed certain patterns that seem to connect most of their stories.
“When you drive home and don’t normally take a child to day care, when you have a habit and you are normally driving home from work — and in those subsets or maybe none at all take a child home — well, what happens in all these cases, the parent goes into autopilot mode, which is typically from home to work,” Diamond explained.
Officials in Missouri, hope the new mirror tags will help alert parents who might find themselves in a similar situation. After all, how many of us have slipped into a daydream as we drove, or lost focus in the chaos of the day — especially in moments of stress or sleep deprivation?
On Facebook, users were quick to praise the police department’s efforts.”What a wonderful idea and making it available to the public is awesome,” wrote one user. “Children are our most precious gifts that we have been allowed to watch over, guide and protect.“
While there were some critical comments left on the post — as well as some that criticised how “sad” it was that a product like this would even need to exist — many were merely grateful that it does.
“I can’t believe the negative comments and the overconfidence that some people could never forget,” wrote one person. “Departure from the normal routine, especially when stressed about something, is when mistakes happen … The decals may save a baby. Thanks for providing them.”
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