Friday, July 14, 2017

Why Do People Leave Kids In Hot Cars And What's To Be Done About It?

Most people who leave children in pets in hot cars are not
evil, science suggests. But the brain tricks them into doing
this. There's also prevention ideas out there. 
It's the peak of summer the most dangerous time of year for children and pets left alone in hot cars.

A few people who leave children and pets to die in cars under a hot sun are just evil people.  (I'll get to one of them in a minute.)  

Most of the people who leave kids and Fido in the car, though, are not awful at all, research shows.  Their brains actually conspire to cause trouble.

According to NBC News, if you fall into a routine, and something happens to disrupt that routine, you can forget something that's extremely important to you. Like your child.

It's just the way our brain is structured, Dr. David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida told NBC News.

Two competing parts of our brains come into play. There's the basal ganglia, the part that operates on a subconscious level, which allows us to store abilities like ride a bicycle or just generally go on autopilot as we complete routine activities.

Then there's the hippocampus, which is the part of our brain in which we learn new information and complete plans we've made.

Here's how this all relates to leaving kids in hot cars, says Diamond and NBC News:

"'When you drive home and don't normally take a child to daycare, 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 those cases, the parent goes into autopilot mode, which is typically home to work. It's in that subset of cases of basal ganglia is taking you on a route that does not include a child.

In these cases, the child is quiet and out of sight, which causes the parent to lose awareness of the task they're out to do."

In other words, these parents are so used to a routine that when a child changes the routine and needs to be left off at daycare, your autopilot subconscious makes you forget the kid.  The brain has created a false memory in the parent of leaving the child at daycare. When actually the kid is still in the hot car. With tragic results.

To combat this, create another routine that you do on autopilot that forces you to check the whole car before you leave.

Always drop your shoe, briefcase or something important in the back seat so you're forced to check the back seat. Or create a routine to make your subconscious happy in which no matter when you leave the car, you open the back doors to look inside.

Congress is looking into legislation that would create mandatory visual or audio cues to make you check the back seat for kids, pets or anything else that's important.

One great idea came from a ten year old kid.

According to the Huffington Post, Bishop Curry, 10 heard about a neighbor's six month old infant dying in an overheated car, so he is creating a device that would prevent incidents like that.

Curry's device, called the Oasis, would respond to rising temperatures by emitting cool air and would use an antenna to alert parents and/or the authorities.

Curry only has a 3-D model of the Oasis now, but he and his parents are seeking investors to produce the actual device. Good idea!

Of course, studies, useful inventions, regulations and preparedness won't help in those cases where people are just evil or stupid. Or both.

Here's one awful example. The Weather Channel reported on a Florida woman who intentionally left her five year old son in a hot car while she went shopping.

Temperatures in the car reached 110 degrees, but fortunately a passerby noticed the kid and got the police involved in time.

The woman was arrested and as she was being transported in a police cruiser, she complained that it was too hot inside the squad car and demanded police turn up the air conditioning.

Police were not amused. The mom is charged with child neglect and the boy, now recovered, has been placed in the custody of his father.

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