You're late. You're busy — you're doing three, four things at once. On autopilot, you strap your baby in the back seat of the car for the regular morning childcare drop off.
But there's also that one last-minute shopping errand, so you head home and into the house — and simply forget your baby is still in the back seat of the car.
Accidentally leaving a child in the back seat of a car can have potentially devastating consequences, and it can happen to anyone.
Create a safer routine and Look Before You Lock.
The Look Before You Lock campaign
The Victorian Government's Look Before You Lock campaign — an Australia government first — raises awareness about how extreme exhaustion, stress or a change in routine can lead to children being inadvertently left in cars.
The Look Before You Lock campaign encourages parents and carers to develop new habits to minimise the risk, such as leaving a bag, phone or wallet on the backseat as a way of checking the backseat every time they get out of the car.
Mother of 12 month-old Zara, Khoon, recently took part in a photo shoot for the
Look Before You Lock campaign.
'I really want people to remember to check the car before they lock, especially when they have a second baby,' she says.
'I have nearly forgotten Zara a couple of times. Your brain doesn't work, especially with a newborn.'
How it happens
Associate Professor of Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences Matthew Mundy says short-term memory failure, when our brains become overloaded with things to remember, can have 'disastrous consequences.'
'It can cause parents and carers to accidently leave a child in a car, which can result in serious injury or, in extreme cases, the death of a child,' Associate Professor Mundy says.
'This is a condition commonly known as Fatal Distraction, and it can happen to anyone.'
Fatal Distraction, Associate Professor Mundy explains, results from an overloaded short-term memory system.
'Human short-term memory is limited,' Associate Professor Mundy says. ' We normally only remember between five to nine items at any one time.'
'If we try to remember more than this, we start to forget things — items can just fall away. It is just the nature of the brain.'
'Unfortunately, our brain doesn't distinguish the level of importance of what we are trying to remember — even a child left in the back seat of a car.'
What you can do
Associate Professor Mundy says parents and carers need to train themselves to check the backseat every time they get out of the car — it needs to become second nature.
'Every time they stop their car — regardless of whether their child is in the back seat or not — they should open the back door.
'Place a bag, phone or wallet in the back seat of the car.'
'It may feel silly and they will have to repeat it many times but it needs to become a habit — like putting on a seat belt.'
Learn more tips to create a safer routine. See: Look before you Lock