Parents Forgetting their Children in Hot Cars-how does this happen?


How can a parent forget their child(ren) are in the car?

child left in car on hot day, irresponsible parents

The weather is getting warmer, and just like every other summer, I am hearing news stories of parents “forgetting” that their children are still in the car (many times very hot cars), while they are doing any number of things. This is shocking and appalling to me, and I’m sure to most of us.

Parents are not perfect – that is a given. When my daughter was little, she did not sleep – which meant that I did not sleep. FOR FOUR LONG YEARS. I was as sleep deprived as any human could be, but I never once forgot where my child was. If either of my children were out running errands with me, you had better believe that I took them out of the car each and every time I went in a store, bank, etc. Yes, it was a pain to get them out of the car seat for a 3 minute errand, but it was worth it to me. The unthinkable can happen in a matter of seconds, and I was not about to take that chance.  Children cannot be left alone in cars. Period.

Some such incidents are accidents, some are just blatant not caring {unfit parents}, and others are plain stupidity.

Two nights ago while watching the local news, I heard a story of a man who left his two-year old daughter in the car while he went into the mall to get a haircut. She was alone in the car for 40 minutes, with the windows only slightly cracked. The temperature inside the car was 104 degrees. Luckily for this child, someone spotted/heard her – she was crying. Mall security unlocked the door and she was rescued. The father’s reasoning? Oh, she was sleeping and he didn’t want to wake her up. Unbelievable.

Just this morning, in our local newspaper {San Francisco Chronicle}, I read yet another story of a parent leaving children in the car. This time it was a mother who left her two kids in the car while she went to a bar. A bar! These children were four months old and 2 years old. She was arrested on child endangerment and willful cruelty to children. Good! Oh, and the car was parked behind a bar – unlocked!

I hear these stories time and time again {a Google search showed that it happens very frequently}, and unfortunately most times the children aren’t so lucky. There was an incident in the city where my husband works, where a father left his four month old child in the car all day while he took BART {our subway system} to work. Apparently he usually dropped their child off at daycare and the day of the incident he forgot that his child was in the backseat. The parents in this case were completely devastated. They were conscientious parents, yet this happened. Their child died.

I still do not understand how any parent cannot remember that their child(ren) is in the car, when they exit their vehicle.

It breaks my heart every time I hear a story about a child being left or forgotten in a car. The children are innocent victims. They were counting on their parents to keep them safe. I cannot make sense of this.

What type of punishment should the parents get in each of the three scenarios above?  The “unfit parent” scenario speaks for itself, in my opinion. She should be punished to the fullest extent. But what about the “stupid” father?

What about the father who loved his child dearly and probably never thought in a million years that something like this could happen to his family? Charges were not filed against him, as it was determined that this was a tragic accident.  Do you think this was a fair determination?

NOTE: I found this video with some tips with helpful reminders, so these situations can be avoided. Tips such as leaving a toy in the front seat, having the daycare provider call if the child doesn’t show up, etc.  Please remember that cars heat up so fast – even with windows cracked.  Do not leave  your pets in cars either – even for a short while.


About Author

Jennifer Regan is the owner/editor-in-chief of Eighty MPH Mom, a family-friendly blog. She is active in Brand Ambassadorships and campaigns, and is active in social media, helping brands promote!


  1. It is a heartbreaking subject that ranges from stupidity to a tragic accident. I heard of a story where a mom and her daughter went shopping a the mall while leaving her 2 year old other daughter and a child she was babysitting in the car. Both children died.

    Because it is more rare for me to be without my kids than with them…I am always in the mode of getting the out of the car or grabbing a diaper bag. I even start to get my kid from the backseat when my kids is not there. Which makes me wonder if those who never drop their kids off at daycare…are just so distracted and in a groove that they do just forget. If I can forget my kid is not with me…can it be reasonable for a parent to forget their child IS with them. I don’t know. I read that if you can forget anything…you can get distracted enough to forget something like this. Is that true? I don’t know.

    I am EXTREMELY angered by the stupid or unfit parents. I have heard of stories of children being left so a parent could run an errand or even go to work. Can you imagine leaving your child in a car for 8 hours because your babysitter called off? 8 hours! It happened in a news story I read and the child died.

    As far as the accidents…it breaks my heart to pieces. I find compassion and worry that if someone who loves their kid as much as I love mine can have this happen…what about me? or my husband? I don’t know.

    Punishment? Well, the stupid guy should be charged with neglect and child endangerment. The unfit parent…the same. The accident…no charges. But..I’m not sure the law makes those distinctions.

    Very sad.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It really does make one wonder “could it happen to me?” I was the same way as you when mine were little – it was habit to go to the backseat for them, grab a diaper bag from the front seat, etc.

      That is a very disturbing story about the woman who went to the mall and left two children in the car (that someone else’s child was in there is even more disturbing). I have no words…

  2. Wow. This is something I wonder about often. How… HOW in the WORLD can you forget your child in a car? It blows my mind.

    Thanks for addressing this. I think people should be prosecuted and maybe re-assess their priorities.

  3. I agree. How do you forget your kid in the backseat? My kids are so loud and noisy their is no way I could forget them and even if they weren’t loud I wouldn’t forget them. Parents who do this are just stupid.

  4. This makes me so mad. I just don’t see what makes parents think they can leave their kids in the car. I understand the desire, but don’t be lazy and risk your child’s life. Being a parent is hard so suck it up and do it right.

  5. I totally agree. I still don’t understand how anyone for that matter could leave a child in a car rather it’s hot or not. It makes me even madder when i see it occurring over and over again. Some people just don’t think or better yet just don’t care.

    I just posted something like this in my recent blog post about summertime tip…..but I’m sure we will hear this happening again. Gr8 Post!

  6. I don’t get it either. I might forget to give my kid lunch money one day or something but forget them in the car…nope, don’t get it.

    And not to change the subject…but it’s important to lock your car, even in your garage/driveway. Kids, by nature are nosy and just don’t realize they can become trapped in there and it could end tragically before anyone finds them.

    This happened in Salt Lake, I’d say 10 years ago, maybe more…five little girls were playing together and they all turned up missing. Police were called, it was all over the news that they were missing. The parents were driving around looking for them.

    One of the parents, unknown at the time to them, was driving around with those little girls the whole time. The girls had gotten into the trunk of the car and were playing and became trapped. Tragic, tragic. 🙁

    I know most cars these days have ways to open the trunk from the inside. But it’s just so easy for kids to get in the car and not be able to get out.

    Ah, sorry for the ramble. These stories just kill me though.

  7. Larry @ Cakeblast on

    It is tragic when it is just an accident. I have seen a few safety devices that alert parents when kids are still in carseats and the parent walks away (a device on the keychain communicates with the carseat I think).

    In cases where parents leave their child to go to a bar or a haircut, there needs to be severe repercussions (e.g. prison time).

  8. I can’t understand it. It breaks my heart every time I hear about one of these incidents.

    And I’m sorry, a parent shouldn’t need a device to tell them their child is in their carseat. It’s called EYES and COMMON SENSE. I’ve always thought it was a shame there’s more concern given to letting someone drive a car than there is to letting people have children.

    People check to make sure their doors are locked before going to bed, and check to see that the lights are off. They also (usually) check to make sure they have their keys before locking the door. Honestly, it takes 2 seconds to glance in the back seat to make sure your child isn’t there.

    • Agreed! I think “some” people obviously need a device – those in the first two instances primarily. Responsible parents really shouldn’t need a device.

  9. I know just how you feel… these stories get me so upset every year. I call the police when I see someone has left an animal in a car on a hot day, I cannot imagine leaving a helpless child.
    I agree with Richele about the punishment for the “stupid” and “unfit” parents, they should face charges and, if the child survives, they should have custody taken away.
    As for the “accidents,” I cannot imagine a punishment more severe than what the parents are already going through.
    I am so glad you are reminding people about this for the summer! Thank you.

  10. WOW. These people definitely shouldn’t have children if they are that neglectful. I don’t plan on having any children ever, but if I ever had a kid I sure wouldn’t leave him/her in a hot car and just leave them there! That is crazy. I don’t know if these people are just idiots or if they know what they are doing but just don’t care… It’s sad really. When I was little my dad left me and my brother in the car for 5 minutes to go into the gas station. I think it was really stupid of him because anything could have happened to us. Thankfully I’m ok. 😉

    • Thank goodness you are! It’s just not worth it to take that chance. I have no idea what these people are thinking either…

  11. People should have to take an IQ test before they’re allowed to have children – how do you “forget” your child? We had a case here a few years ago-the wife usually took the baby to child care but that day, the husband took her. Went right to work, left her in the car, remembered a few hours later when his wife called-the baby was dead. He said he “forgot” she was in the backseat. WTH?

  12. This is such a sad thing but I’m hearing more and more about it on the daily news..Just a few weeks ago, someone did it to her child too in the local grocery store parking lot..She left the 3 month old!!!-in the car, and her own Mother was with her and allowed it to happen also! what on earth?

    Some people just don’t need children..period!

    Thanks for the link to the video also!

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