T Nation

Hot Cars and Dead Children

When I first heard about a child dying in a hot car seat, my first thought was of vengeance against the parent. Of course, I’m not just talking about the parents who PURPOSEFULLY leave a kid in a hot car, I also mean the parents who thought they dropped their kids off at daycare and left a sleeping kid in the car seat while they worked. How, I raged, could they NOT KNOW?

Well, after working rotating shifts at a prison for several months, not being able to sleep properly, and heading in for a 12 hour day shift, I strapped my son (then ~1.5 years old) into his car seat, drove right past his daycare and got 99% of the way to the prison on a half hour car ride before glancing in my mirror and realizing my son was asleep in the car seat and I had forgotten to drop him off. When I get in the parking lot I always just hopped right out and started walking towards the gate getting ready for a pat-down so had I not seen him, I might have left him. It got up to 95 degrees that day.
That has fucked with me ever since, and I came across this horrific but amazingly written Pulitzer-winning piece on the subject.

After you accidentally kill your child, you then sit in a courtroom and they show you pictures and autopsy photos and describe it to you, blaming you, trying to jail you for it. Maybe they should. Maybe I’d have deserved it.

Have a read. It’s quite distressing, but worth it.


I agree. It infuriates me how a “tip” is for parents to put their cell phones by their kids so they “don’t forget”. It’s as if forgetting a cell phone is harder than forgetting one’s literal blood and flesh

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If we prohibit all abortions that aren’t undoubtedly performed to save the mother’s life, I could see involuntary manslaughter. As things are, I don’t agree with punishing a parent for the accidental death of his/her child.

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I don’t see why abortion needs to be brought into the discussion. What’s next? Socialism, AOC, white nationalism, baseball?

Having a child is a responsibility you choose to accept. You are irresponsible in other areas of your life, there are consequences. You fail to look both ways while leaving from a stop sign and get into an accident, you pay. You just don’t say to the other driver, “my bad,” and it’s OK. Because your car is damaged it doesn’t mean you don’t pay for the damage to the other car.

A human being lost its life in a horrible way. That has to be an agonizing death. The fact that that death affects the person who is responsible doesn’t mean that person shouldn’t face consequences. The idea that the parent has suffered enough doesn’t sit well with me. Especially now, when people should know better.


Because our society apparently believes parents own their children. Therefore, I see no reason to punish a parent for anything done to his/her child. That’s it. I’m not trying to debate abortion, I’m just giving my position and the reason behind it.

I don’t think that’s true. If that were the case we wouldn’t have laws against things like child labor, child slavery, child sex trafficking, etc.

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Your car isn’t damaged though - your life is over. Most marriages are over. If there are brothers and sisters also dealing with the loss, then dad goes to jail too and getting a job becomes difficult thereafter.

People should know better, you’re absolutely right. Leaving your kid in a car on a hot day ON PURPOSE for conveniences sake while you shop should be attempted murder, IMO. But - and this is because it almost happened to me, I’m sure - the parents who genuinely thought their kids were at daycare because they were distracted or what have you, is that the same? How do we charge those crimes accordingly?

What’s the punishment - 10 years? Life? Death penalty?

By the way.

Everyone, please read the article. In full. Not just preaching your personal feelings.

This isn’t at all a shot at @zecarlo or @nickviar as their responses are perfectly reasonable, just in anticipation of things to come.

Regardless of what the article argues, I can’t really think of a good excuse for leaving kids in a hot car. With that said, I do agree that people should not be attacking (probably stressed, exasperated) parents. Mob mentality never goes well

I don’t know what an appropriate punishment would be. But I don’t think a you’ve suffered enough approach is enough. People should know better by now. Parents should know better by now. The fact that every summer someone on the news has to remind people to not leave their dogs in the car says something about how we neglect our responsibilities when we should know better already. Maybe the best solution is for the government to require technologies that will remind parents they have a kid in the car. We made child seats the law so it could be a similar thing.

If you know you are going out to drink, you should plan ahead of time because you don’t want to drive drunk. You either don’t drink a lot or you plan on calling a cab or whatever. There is no excuse in today’s world to drive drunk. You made a choice to drink before you actually started to drink. You are going to take your child somewhere in your car. You should take whatever steps you need to in order to not forget he is in the backseat.

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I have no idea what to do but I’m crying at work now, ha. Jesus…

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This just has… so many roots, and they run FAR.

I think… there should be NO sympathy given, but I dont think the crime is the same…

Society as a whole is working longer hours, with less leniency, surrounded by exponentially more distractions every decade.

The only reason I’m not of the “burn the witch” mentality (being that I dont have kids, and it’s easier for me to judge because of it) is simply because I quite regularly drive, get to my destination, and have absolutely no recollection of the entire trip. I’m in my head thinking about work, lifting, bills, my cats health, hurricane season post flooding, shit I’ve just forgotten to do… I’m making rational decisions while driving and I’m confident in being a good driver, but… while my eyes and motor controls are on point, my head is almost always a hundred miles away.

I think it’s absolutely possible for this to happen as a true accident… it’s still fucked though. Like i said, zero sympathy, but the crime just isnt the same.

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Again, you know whether your dog is in the car and you purposefully leave them in there. Different situation.

Made a choice to drink. Totally different, once again.

This I totally agree with. I actually look in my rear view mirror to check the backseat now, even when I am 100% sure I don’t have my kids.

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I just think your analogies are only related to the “i didn’t wanna bring my kid in so I left them out here” situation. Your reasoning for both situations being criminal is valid.

The article is fucked up, man. When you have kids you’ll really understand how fucked it is, because just HEARING about any kid getting hurt rips my heart out of my chest. You project all sorts of fucked up situations onto your own children.

I’ve been meaning to make this a thread for a while, mostly because 2+ years after forgetting to drop my kid at daycare I haven’t stopped feeling scared or guilty about it, and this was very tough to admit to despite nothing happening, and the fact that he woke up soon after I realized and I would have probably heard him. But if he hadn’t, and I hadn’t glanced back there, I dunno. He had real long hair back then. Maybe he’d have ripped all of it out before dying like the girl in the article. I cried when I read that.

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You make a choice to drink and assume the responsibility. You make a choice to have a kid and you assume the responsibility.

We don’t choose a lot of things that have negative results but they are still the result of our actions or inactions. I have sympathy for a parent who has caused the death of their child accidentally but as we become more aware of this problem I have less. I still wouldn’t harass the parent or want them to be a pariah or something.

Do they have an app to remind you your child or even dog is in the car?

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Again, drinking and driving requires conscious choice, down to the circumstances that led you to be that drunk. It’s an action vs inaction kind of thing.

A busy ER nurse forgetting to turn on a patients pump is a better analogy. And that’s certainly criminal since that’s their job. It would prove your point. The drunk driving thing is different. It’s just a weak analogy. I still acknowledge your reasoning.

What do you think happens to a parent who’s convicted of killing their child and spends a decade in jail?

One time my parents left me in a car on a very hot day and went shopping or something. When they returned they yelled at me for not opening the window. I guess I was a pretty dumb kid…

How old were you?

He was 29.