That moment that changes a life. When a Dad realises he left his baby in the backseat of the car.

The horrifying concept of fatal distraction has been caught on video, and that awful moment when a father realises he has left his child in a hot car has been shared more than 50,000 times.

It’s the fraction of a second when life spins on its axis and changes.

A father busy, distracted. A change of routine. It’s unfathomable.

A baby forgotten and that moment of realisation like the dawning of a curtain of death.

What have I done? Oh Christ what have I done?

A father in that moment.

A video which has been viewed and shared over 50,000 times shows the way any of us can succumb to what is coined “fatal distraction.”

It is a video worth 11 minutes of your life.  It is difficult to watch, confronting, but something we need to talk about, to shed light on in order to prevent deaths from happening.

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These are stories we know all too well.

In February a 22-month old boy, Noah Krespanis died after being left by a relative in a hot car in Kyneton, Victoria. While the details were not released at the time there was speculation it was another case of “fatal distraction.”

Noah Krespanis died aged 22 months.

His devastated family posting a tribute to the little boy on social media.

“I love him more everyday, forever,” his father, Andrew Krespanis wrote.

“I’ll always know I cherished every day, every laugh, every adventure, every cuddle.”

“Hug your children and never let them go.”

A month prior a mother in New Zealand mistakenly thought she had dropped her 16-month-old at daycare when she had in fact left him in the car park at the hospital where she worked.

Fatal distraction is a concept many are uncomfortable with.

The mother didn’t usually drop her son at daycare that day and instead drove her usual route to work. When she left work for the day what she found in her car turned her world upside down.

The idea that you can just forget your baby is unfathomable for most of us. It’s a horrifying concept, a deep routed fear of failing the very being we have been destined to protect.

In 2010, Washington Post journalist Gene Weingarten wrote a piece on fatal distraction that won a Pulitzer Prize. His words were read, shared and analysed by hundreds of thousands around the world.


He wrote:

“What kind of person forgets a baby? The wealthy do, 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.”

And yet it happens, time and time again.

It shocks us deeply and frightens us that the human mind can be so fallacious. We trust ourselves, we trust our instincts but this concept of autopilot, of fatal distraction, shows us our impotence.

Related content: Was this little boy’s death a horrible mistake? Or something more sinister?

In this 11 minute film the very real possibility of fatal distraction is explored, and what is flooring is the fact that the filmmakers are just teenagers themselves.

From the film, Autopilot.

US High school students Jacob Ramon and Drake Alford made the film in their summer vacation as a reaction to the number of children being left in hot cars in their local area.

“Since we live in the valley, I mean you hear cases like this all the time,” Jacob Ramon told KVEO “You know, the negligent parents that leave their kids in the hot cars and then especially with the level of heat we have down here, it’s definitely a prevalent crisis we have here.”

From the film, Autopilot.

But they have since realised not just there.

Oft quoted statistics show that on average 38 children die in hot cars each year. In Australia the official figures are difficult to pin down as they are tangled up in traffic fatality numbers, but last year 4427 children were left in cars and had to be rescued.

From the film, Autopilot.

In the US over 150 children have died in hot cars since 2010.

Dr Matthew Mundy, a memory expert at the School of Psychology and Psychiatry at Monash University told the ABC that, just like is demonstrated in this film, every parent is capable of making a fatal mistake.

“For our drive to work, we’ve formed an autopilot to how to get there and a part of the brain that takes over when those sorts of things happen is called the basal ganglia,” Dr Mundy explains.

“This part of the brain is relatively primitive and it sort of monitors our routine motor skills for us. And so while we’re driving to work or whilst we’re making a cup of tea, we might not be aware of exactly all the decisions that we’re making.

“They’re actually not conscious to us. And because of that, because we’re not consciously making those decisions to turn left and turn right or put the sugar in at the right time, if something distracts us, if maybe a car cuts us off or if the telephone rings, we might miss a step.”

And its that step, that fragment of time, that can change lives fatally.