Most people carry out everyday tasks on "autopilot", unsure whether they stopped at traffic lights and not remembering making a cup of tea, according to a report.
The study also found that most parents do not take any measures to prevent their children having accidents, with fewer than half moving hot drinks from their reach or storing cleaning products safely.
A survey of 5,000 adults found that one in four could not remember stopping at traffic lights, while half had turned back to make sure they had locked the door.
The study by the Child Accident Prevention Trust found that fewer than half of parents moved hot drinks away from small children, stored cleaning products safely or strapped their child into a high chair.
Katrina Phillips, the trust's chief executive, said: "We all revert to autopilot just to get through the day - there's simply too much to remember - but busy parents can use this to their advantage to help keep children safe from serious accidents.
"The trick is to make safety part of your everyday routine and develop safety habits before your child puts you to the test.
"Many accidents happen when parents are taken by surprise by their child's abilities - when they grab at a mug of coffee or open cleaning products left under the sink. If safety habits are already second nature, children are kept safe from serious harm."
Parenting psychologist Pat Spungin said: "When we regularly repeat an action, such as closing the safety gate, it soon becomes an automatic, habitual behaviour that we do on autopilot. Preventing accidents doesn't take much effort, but could make a real difference for a child."
The report was published to mark Child Safety Week this week.