NJ split on unknowingly leaving kids in hot cars
Authorities confirm a 2-year-old child is dead and sources say it’s believed the case may be another example of a guardian forgetting there was a child still in the backseat. It’s the kind of thing that is unthinkable to most people.
It happened Tuesday in Franklin Township in Somerset County. Temperatures were in the low 90s and the air was thick with humidity. It is believed the child may have been in the vehicle for as many as seven hours.
Callers to our Deminski & Doyle show Tuesday gave mixed opinions. Some shared real-life stories from when they had started driving on auto-pilot and went all the way to work instead of doing the daycare drop off nearly bringing their child to the same fate. Others scoffed at the mere notion a parent could possibly do such a thing.
We had callers who believed “drugs and alcohol” would usually turn out to be involved.
Others who felt too many parents in such forgetful hot car cases are distracted by obsessions with cell phones and other devices. One caller suggested murder charges were in order.
The investigation in this particular case is ongoing and will play out as it should. If you’re in that group who believes it’s impossible for a loving parent to forget their kid in a hot car, you need to know most hot car deaths happen exactly that way. Unknowingly. That’s according to the very organization that cares deeply about this problem, NoHeatStroke.org.
Further, there’s neuroscience research into the phenomenon that confirms it not only happens, it can happen to anyone given the right circumstances. Yes, even those who say murder charges should be brought and even those who place themselves on a pedestal as an infallible parent can have this happen. In fact, it may be more likely to happen to them because of not accepting the very possibility that it could. They don’t keep their guard up as much.
David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa says, “The most common response is that only bad or negligent parents forget kids in cars. It’s a matter of circumstances. It can happen to everyone.”
There are two categories of memory at war with each other. Prospective memory and semantic memory.
Prospective memory is the one that looks ahead to recall important information and reminds us to do certain things. Semantic memory concerns that which we do so routinely that it allows us to go on autopilot so to speak. It’s that very semantic memory that makes drivers perfectly navigate their way home but once they get there have very little memory of details of the trip.
Ask yourself how many times you’ve driven several miles and know you had to cross through several intersections with traffic lights but cannot for the life of you remember if they were red or green. That’s your semantic memory, and a change in routine such as being tasked with bringing the baby to daycare drop-off on your way to work when you don’t normally make that trip can fall prey to getting in the car with the best of intentions to do just that but instead falling into semantic memory autopilot and going to work.
But it feels safer to judge people, doesn’t it?
It makes us feel safer for there to be a reason. If it’s drugs or alcohol, we just know not to do those. If it’s playing with your cell phone, we know to put it down. It’s the comfort of disassociating from what went wrong to show ourselves that it could never happen to us.
“I keep the wolf from the door” is a line in a Radiohead song. It’s what people are doing when they say loving parents could never possibly forget their child was in the backseat. They’re disassociating. They’re keeping the wolf from the door.
Except the wolf does what it wants.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.