We had another desperately sad event here in Israel yesterday. A father forgot his 5 month old child in his car and the child died in the heat.
We’ve already had another case that killed a 9 month old child here in Israel this year. UPDATE 14:15 Another case in Dolev and an 18 month old has lost her fight for life after being spotted by a passer by. That’s 3 this month in Israel.
I immediately felt there must be something wrong with the people who do this, a kind of indignant rage that people don’t love their kids. Last night Kathy Shaidle (5 feet of fury blog) pointed me at long, Pulitzer Prize winning, piece about this very subject in the Washington Post a few years ago.
On reading the whole piece (which I really encourage all driving parents to do) I began to have so much more sympathy for those wretched souls who’ve done this to their own kids. There is no further punishment on earth that anyone could pass on: any loving parent knows this.
Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?
The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.
Last year it happened three times in one day, the worst day so far in the worst year so far in a phenomenon that gives no sign of abating.
And then it struck me, just once in my first year of owning my electric car I came home, engrossed in a call on my cell phone. I got out of the car, still speaking on my phone, I fetched my bag from the boot of my car and carried on out of the garage. I went upstairs and into my flat. I don’t know when the phone call ended. All I know is, when I came to the car next morning it was not plugged in to the power.
That was a pain in the arse because I’d driven a long way the previous day and the battery was low: I had to take a detour and switch my battery when I shouldn’t have had to. But the consequences were of no real significance.
But forgetting to do something that should have been a habit: that’s just what happened to all these people. Some little change in rhythm or procedure and they made a mistake they will never forget or forgive themselves for.
Some advice: put your handbag or wallet on the back seat next to the child, put your mobile phone there too. Even if you do forget it, you’ll find yourself heading back to the car quickly to get it.
Most of all don’t think you couldn’t ever do this. Because something could happen and you could do this. Consciousness of the problem is the only defence.
And I’ve got a new mission: when I walk past cars I look inside for child seats. I don’t care if I look like a car thief.