Kids left in hot cars: What’s the solution?


It happens every summer doesn’t it? Every summer we get inundated with stories about parents who leave their kids in the car during the extremely hot weather. This summer is no different as the story of Justin Ross Harris from Georgia has been taking up the headlines. Harris is a different case however as he’s accused of allegedly leaving his 33-month-old son Cooper in the car intentionally while he went to work.

As an aside this story is too Nancy Grace for me. I bet she even made one of her stupid twitter hashtags about this. #broiledbaby or something like that.

Getting back to the point most of the parents who leave their kids in hot cars do so accidentally. Granted there are the cases where a selfish person will go into a strip club or get their hair done while leaving their kids in the car. I’m not talking about those people.a I’m talking about the people who genuinely forget that they left their kid in the car while under the influence of no substances. What do we do with them? Is prosecution really the answer? Is there some kind of education that’s needed? Something is obviously needed as unnecessary child deaths caused by leaving them in a hot car happen every year.

Thanks to Ashley and Nancy for the tip.

  • seahen

    I say what’s needed is to give the babies tags that have a thermometer and a pager embedded, like they use in data centers.

  • Pak31

    I’m reading all of the helpful tips/comments and just shaking my head. How in God’s name do you forget that you have your precious child with you? Sorry, I just can’t believe this is a discussion. I want to slap the face of every parent leaving with their child in tow and say “don’t forget”. It’s not that hard people.

    • Cori

      Because parents are humans, too. I know it seems unthinkable that someone could forget their child, but it is possible and it’s not because they don’t care about their child.

      Have you ever gotten in your car, started to think about something that has been bothering you, and suddenly realized you were at your destination but you couldn’t recall actually driving? Our brains have amazing capabilities, but they are limited, and because of these limitations our brains have to choose what is and is not relevant at any given time. It’s like a filter of sorts. As you’re reading this your brain is focusing on the input it’s receiving from your eyes and likely ignoring all of the other massive amounts of sensory information it’s constantly bombarded with from your ears, nose, even skin and mouth. It does this with all manner of information, not just sensory. Information such as a change, a baby riding with mom instead of dad, might be discarded by the brain in exchange for a routine that can be acted out with very little conscious thought, thought that is likely in use elsewhere.

      I could never have imagined forgetting a child until I started learning more about our brain in an effort to help my ASD son with his sensory issues. The fact is that we’re all fallible, and rather than insisting it could never happen to us and judging those it has happened to we should work towards furthering education. Opening up dialogue that is free from condemnation would actually encourage people to learn more about how to prevent such sad accidents.

      • Jenny R.

        as a budding lover of neuroscience; I couldn’t have said it better myself! Wonderfully put Cori. I’d also like to mention to the lesser understanding–sleep deprivation. If you’ve (you being general audience now, not Cori) been lucky enough to never suffer it… well it won’t say much, but it has a *profound* effect on neural processes. …and guess what the most common cause of sleep dep is? (outside working as an on-call medical professional or suffering insomnia) …yeah, children.

  • Tanya Powers

    Check out They have a lot of helpful tips for all types of vehicle safety with children. There are also others who share their stories about making the worst mistake in their lives.

    I really struggle with the thought of forgetting my kids, as I am sure most parents do. I cannot seem to empathize or understand. I am not saying I am perfect but I just don’t get it.
    There is one story from a mother in Charlottesville, VA who’s 9 month old son died while in her car for 7 hours. She did not intentionally leave her child in the vehicle (as I believe Justin Ross Harris did); she just didn’t have him at the forefront of her thinking that day. She had many other important things to do like handle a work emergency, plan to get IVF for the next baby, let someone else borrow her normal vehicle etc. IMO she made the decisions that lead to the death of her child whether intentional or not.

  • Cori

    A kid in I believe Kentucky entered an invention contest where you had to use only rubber bands. He came up with what is basically a long string that you attach across your door when you put your child in their car seat. You wouldn’t notice it while driving, but as soon as you go to get out you’re confronted with an impossible to ignore reminder that your child is in the back seat.

    While this does of course still count on the adult to remember to hook it up after placing their child in their seat, I think it’s an awesome example of how kids and lowtech devices can make a difference.

    • DodiaFae

      That’s awesome! Maybe putting it across the car seat so the parent can’t miss that it’s there could be a reminder to hook it up.

  • Anna

    Maybe a sensor required on cars that lets you know if there is still something/someone in the car seat when you leave the car? Required like seat belts, so people who buy them won’t be stigmatized as bad parents, and people won’t refuse to buy them because they think they’re too good like Trench said.

    • Trench Reynolds

      If seat belt alarms are standard I can’t see why something like that can’t be.

  • Cameron

    A CNN reporter was using the hashtag #HotCarDeath when the hearing was going in in real time. What about just leaving the damn tag off and reporting on the guy? We all know who he is and what he did by now.

    As for education, there are devices such as sensor pads you can buy to sense when weight is still in the car seat, and if you wander too far from the car, a little remote sensor you stick on your key chain will alarm. However, they say the best thing to do is something relatively simple-take off your left shoe and leave it in the backseat. That way you have something you definitely need (and not something you can forget at home like a purse or cell phone)and it will be back there with your little one. Granted you’ll be driving around without a shoe on, but if it saves a life, something simple as having a foot cold is peanuts compared to what can happen.

    • Trench Reynolds

      Great comment Cameron. The shoe thing is a really great idea. Except I can see some people thinking they’re too good for that until it happens to them.

      • Minerva

        The most simple, cheap thing that everyone can get… A mirror. I had one when my daughter was an infant. You place it on the headrest of the backseat so when you look in your rear view you can see your child and what they are doing. It costs like $5 at Walmart or target.

    • megan Kitchen

      In WA I know it used to be illegal to drive without shoes on. I don’t know if it still is but I wouldn’t want to risk a ticket for it.

      • Buffettgirl

        It is no longer illegal anywhere to drive barefoot in the US. In fact, when wearing flip flops, backless shoes or any type of shoe that might come off easily it is now preferred that you drive bare foot. Just an FYI. 😉

        • Aussie Sabbath

          In NSW, it’s not illegal to drive barefeet or in heels or thongs (flip-flops). But if you get into a collision because your heel jammed under the brake pedal or your thong got caught under the accelerator, you can get into trouble.

          • Buffettgirl

            Bingo! That’s the same theory here, bad footwear can’t be used as an excuse or factor in a collision here either anymore.