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She didn't remember leaving her child in the car. By the time she realised, it was too late.

How could it happen?

It is one of the most tragic mistakes imaginable. But if experts are to be believed, it could happen to any of us.

A mother of three named Jayde Poole is currently on trial for the manslaughter of her almost-six-month-old daughter, Bella.

Back in December 2012, Poole frantically called the police to report a kidnapping after discovering that Bella was not in her cot.

But when police arrived and searched the Bendigo property, they found Bella buckled in her baby seat. In the back seat of the car.

Ms Poole had reportedly had no idea that she was there.

According to the then 28-year-old, she’d gone out to get takeaway for her son, 6, two and a half hours earlier – and forgotten that she brought baby Bella with her.

It was around 30 degrees in Bendigo and Bella died in the back of the car.

Poole later told police that she had no memory of leaving her little girl in the car. And during her trial, Poole has been described as a “very loving and caring mother,” who is “not forgetful at all”.

So how did this even happen?

The Ladybugs Child Care Centre

A similar incident occurred in October last year, when a Perth dad drove to a childcare centre to pick up his 11-month-old son at the end of a long day.

But when he asked to collect his child, the father was told that his son had never been dropped off. The dad then found his son, still buckled in the back of the car. The 11-month-old could not be revived.

It was believed the child might have been in the car all day and that his father may have simply “forgotten” to drop him off at day care.

How does a parent forget their child? It might seem impossible, but the phenomenon is very, very real.

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It has been dubbed the ‘fatal distraction’ phenomena, after the 2009 Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Post article on the topic.

Modern life throws up many distractions – and if enough distractions are thrown up, it’s possible for parents to forget what they were ‘doing in the first place’.

The article explored the phenomenon of doting, dedicated, good parents, forgetting that their children are in the back seat and leaving them inside the car. It happens to 15-25 kids every year in the US:

The wealthy do it, 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.

Mamamia spoke to psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg last year, about whether there is anything parents can do to avoid being affected by this fatal distraction.

Carr-Gregg said:

Michael Carr Gregg

“As someone who has had two boys, I really do think that this could happen to any of us. Research suggests that it doesn’t really happen that often, but the bad news is that it’s incredibly difficult to predict when it is going to happen.

“It happens out of the blue.”

There is no way to predict when Fatal Distraction Phenomena is likely to occur, as it really does happen to everyone. Intelligence or IQ, importance of job, mindfulness, organisational skills – none of these things are a factor, in regards to what parents are affected.

“Just about the only way in which you could 100 per cent guarantee that his could never happen to you,” Care-Gregg says, “Is to be anal and have a list.”

American advocacy group Kids and Cars recommends a number of methods, to help make sure that more parents aren’t afflicted by the Fatal Distraction Phenomena – with tragic consequences. These methods include:

Putting something on the backseat of the car, that requires you to open the back door every time you park. For example, a handbag or mobile phone.

Keeping a cuddly, stuffed toy in your child’s car seat when they are not strapped in. When your child is in the car, keep the stuffed toy on the front seat as a reminder.

Asking your childcare centre, babysitter or other carer to give you call if you haven’t dropped your child off on time.

Making it a routine to open the back door of the car every time you park – even if there’s no one in the back seat – just to check and make sure nothing (or no one) has been left behind.

Making sure you don’t make calls or text while driving – this can cause more distractions.

Our thoughts are with the family of baby Bella.