Science behind parents leaving kids in cars

Wesley Chapel, Florida - Most parents have no intention of ever leaving their child behind in the car on purpose. A Tampa neuroscientist says it can happen to anyone and he says there's a science to why they legitimately forget.

No one knows that better than Wesley Chapel grandmother Sue Boe. She used to wonder how a parent could forget their most precious cargo. "At least I would think, 'You people are probably neglectful,'" she says. "'You probably don't care about your kids, maybe you're high on drugs or alcohol or something.' That was really my first thought."

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All that has changed now since she lost her granddaughter Kate. "Life was good for the family and then there was a change in their routine."

That change in routine is what cost the 5-month-old her life. Boe says, "Normally my son would take the baby to daycare, but on this particular day my daughter-in-law needed to take her. So my son put the baby in the back seat of the car... the baby normally always falls asleep as soon as the car starts moving."

That's what happened on June 28, 2006. Kate fell asleep as her mother ran errands and then drove to work, where she remained for eight hours. It was 78 degrees that day. The mother even drove to the daycare to pick Kate up, not realizing the child's lifeless body was still strapped into her car seat.

Boe says CPR was performed, but Kate didn't survive. Kate would be 8 years old now.

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USF Neuroscientist Dr. David Diamond says there's a science behind it. "It's the parent that more typically on that day might be going straight to work, and so their brain habit system is now following that more traveled route, and that habit system is so powerful that it actually suppresses a separate, more independently brain system that's supposed to remind them that there's a child in the car."

Dr. Diamond and Boe agree that technology in our vehicles could be the answer to saving lives. Diamond says, "We have reminders to put the seatbelts on... we need to have it built into cars in some way."



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