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Children dying in hot cars - mistake or crime?

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vespergirl

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I know where I stand on this issue - it''s definitely a crime. I was livid when I read this article in today''s Washington Post:
Fatal Distraction
Forgetting a child in the back seat of a hot, parked car is a horrifying, inexcusable mistake. But is it a crime?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/27/AR2009022701549.html

The writer frames the story as, "Poor, overworked, distracted parents. Too busy with the multitasking demands of modern life to remember that they have children."

I was so disgusted when I read that. And, as the mother of a 2 year old, I can guarantee that there has never been a moment in his life that I have forgotten, or not known, his whereabouts. I think that if you are busy to the point of not being able to remember your children, then perhaps you should not be a parent. The way that these children died was brutal and excruciating.

I also wonder if the offending parents were uneducated minorities living in the ghetto, would the law be as lenient with them. Or I bet if it were a nanny who left the child to bake to death in a car, the parents would be screaming for blood. It''s especially disgusting me that Lyn Balfour, who shows almost no emotion or regret (refusing to feel bad about killing her child!) has had two more children with the help of a fertility clinic - she''s obviously proven that she''s not responsible enough to be a parent. The state of VA should take those children away from her.

I know that there are going to be people who say, oh, people forget things, but forgetting that you left your child in a car for EIGHT HOURS is not the same as leaving your phone in the car for five minutes.

And I really have a problem with DAs nont prosecuting some of these cases. What a convenient excuse for people who would like to get rid of their children. All you have to do is lock them in the car on a hot day, pretend that you "forgot" that they were in there, and no charges will be pressed, even though you killed your kid. Surely AT LEAST manslaughter charges should be brought against all of these offenders. I don''t care how bad you feel about it, the result is that you killed your child, and that is not excusable. There are plenty of accidental crimes where people didn''t mean to hurt someone, but they do, and have to pay the price. I''m sure that drunk drivers don''t mean to kill people when they get behiind the wheel, but if they do, they go to jail.

Anyway, I just hate the way the writer presented this article, like we''re supposed to feel sorry for these people. I feel sorry for the children, and the long, excruciating, horrible way that they died. Not for their crappy parents who were too self-absorbed to take proper care of them.
 

Maisie

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I don''t believe its an accident when a child dies in a hot car. There is enough publicity about a dog being left in a hot car, never mind a child. I never leave my children in the car, even just for a few minutes.
 

Hudson_Hawk

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Yes, it should be treated as a crime. It''s gross negligence.
 

simplysplendid

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Yes, it should be a crime. As you mentioned, it can be taken as a loophole in the legal system which people can make use of to dispose of their children. That said, for those who somehow genuinely forgot, my heart goes out to them (I read in the news that a dad forgot an infant was sleeping in the backseat because he swapped his duties with this wife to send the baby to infantcare that day. He forgot and didn''t realise he left his baby in the back of the care until the wife went to pick the baby up from infantcare after work). Genuinely forgetting still doesn''t make it forgiveable though.
 

Maria D

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I just want to point out that the article is not about parents who willfully leave their infants/toddlers in cars, thinking that it's OK to leave them there for a little while. It's about people who completely forget the child is there. This is actually not uncommon, unfortunately. It happens when a parent is out of their usual routine, tired, and/or distracted.

A few years ago a case made the papers in my area when a male lawyer left his 4 month old baby in her carseat in the backseat of his car for over 4 hours. Normally his wife took the baby to daycare but for whatever reason, it was his duty that morning. The baby had been up all night. This meant that both dad and baby were tired. So baby slept for the whole commute and the father, who was also tired, went into automatic mode. He did what he usually did every morning: drove directly to work, parked in a parking garage, went to work. The daycare provider never called anyone. Two things saved that baby: it was a fairly cool day and for some reason the father parked on the top floor of the garage, even though there were other spots available. By lunchtime, the only available parking spaces were on the top floor. Someone noticed a baby in the backseat of a car and called the police. If he had parked on one of the other "ceilinged" floors, which are poorly lit, it is possible that no one would have seen the baby. The baby turned out to be OK and the father was not charged.

I think the article should be a must read for new parents. When I had my daughter I learned all about proper infant sleeping positions, importance of hydration, infant CPR, location and types of curtain pulls etc., but never once was warned about how often parents with a child in a rear-facing carseat accidentally forget the child is there, sometimes with tragic results. Everyone who thinks that this could *never* happen to them needs to read the article -- all the parents to whom it DID happen probably thought the same thing.
 

strmrdr

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crime
 

purrfectpear

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As a single mom I knew stress, fatigue, and a myriad of other burned out emotions. I never forgot I had a child in the carseat. Puhleeze. How the hell do you forget you have a kid with you? Sorry, just not buying it.

Crime.
 

Kaleigh

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It''s a crime to me. Plain and simple.
 

phoenixgirl

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I''m not sure how I define the word crime . . . if it''s something that society deems unacceptable, that is abhorrent, then yes, it is a crime. But if a crime also implies intent, and punishment for the crime is intended to teach a lesson and rehabilitate, then no, I don''t think it fits. What parent could ever learn something from prison or from losing other children that losing the child left in the car couldn''t teach?

I think it''s easy to judge . . . to say that I would never do something like this because I am more responsible, caring, thoughtful, aware, etc. than the parents to which this happens. That reassures us that it couldn''t happen to us because the alternative is that we live in a scary and sometimes tragic world where beautiful young children die accidental deaths. I know someone who accidentally backed over his 2 year old daughter, killing her. Yes, somebody neglected to know where she was for an instant. How many parents can claim that they have never not known where their children were for an instant? Can you imagine his sorrow? Can you imagine the strain on his marriage? Can you imagine how you would ever forgive yourself? How you would find the strength to keep living? It''s so easy to judge. It''s not so easy to forgive somebody for not being perfect for just a second and paying for the ultimate price for it. I suspect it''s much harder, even impossible, if you happen to be that person.
 

October2008bride

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I've read a few stories about this type of situation and it just breaks my heart. I feel like it is really easy for people to say it would NEVER happen to them - that they would NEVER forget their child, but I don't know. I do think that accidents could happen.

I've followed a photography blog for 2 years or so of a woman in Australia who's child died in a hot car - it was a different scenario (the little girl had gone into the car to get some candy and couldn't get herself out), but when I read about the experience, the grief, the responsibility the mother felt for leaving the car unlocked - well I just can't help but think there are times when "crime" doesn't feel like the right word.

I agree that there is a difference between leaving your child intentionally ("its just a few minutes - I'll leave her") and an accident.

I honestly don't know where I stand on this - I just don't think it is clear cut. I do know it is extremely sad and unfortunate though.


ETA: Here is the blog if anyone is interested http://sheyerosemeyerphotography.com/blog/
 

MissGotRocks

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It's interesting to see how many times it happens to the fathers. Mothers, no matter how tired, don't usually forget about them. I think men's minds work differently than women's. It seems to happen to the men when they have been given child duty and it's not usually their duty. I think their minds go on to their work or whatever whereas a woman's mind juggles lots of things all at once - particularly once she is a mother.

It doesn't make it right - but for those that truly forget - I cannot imagine what a horrific thing it must be. We live in such a hurry up society - everyone is racing to do this, get here, do that. Every year you read about someone who accidentally runs over a child in the driveway. Again, I can't imagine the agony these people live through. I am grateful that I was able to be a SAHM when my kids were young but in today's world, that is most often not the case. For most of us, these things are unthinkable. . . but they do happen. I really don't think most of these folks intended to murder their children by leaving them in a hot car. I can't judge all of these people - I am just grateful that I never had to walk in their shoes.

I haven't had a chance to read this article in the Post yet but heard it was in the Sunday Magazine. I will try to look at it this week.
 

iheartscience

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Did anyone commenting actually read the article? I'm guessing not based on these comments. I would recommend that everyone actually read the article before denouncing these parents as monsters.

I read the article this morning and it explains exactly how and why this happens. And it points out that ANYONE could do this. Some of the people who have accidentally left their children in the car have been: a pediatrician, a rocket scientist (literally-he left his kid in his car in the parking lot at NASA), a school principal, etc.

I know I could do it-I am very much a routine-oriented person and I tend to go on auto-pilot, so much so that I won't actively remember driving to work, for example. My mom's parents actually accidentally left her at their house when she was a kid-they got all the other kids packed up and in the car and left her on the front porch.

I think that these incidents are horrible, horrible mistakes, and I don't agree that they should be prosecuted. In fact, the article states that some parents are charged with crimes (Lyn Balfour was actually charged with second degree murder) and some are charged with nothing.

It's very easy to vilify these parents because everyone would like to believe that this could never happen to them. And because it could never happen to them because they are loving and attentive parents, these parents who forgot their children in their car must be absolute monsters.
 

Efe

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I have to admit that I did not read the entire article. I just found it too upsetting. I do feel, however, that losing a child is just the worse thing that could happen to anyone. Losing a child, by your own hand, has got to be unbearable. I think, under some circumstances, that is punishment enough.
 

megumic

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There''s a lot to consider in a case like this. Are we punishing an accident? A morally wrong decision? An intentional crime?

What do you hope to achieve? Is it justice for a parent who made an honest mistake to go to jail - depriving their other children of a parent and society from an upstanding citizen? Will this prevent other parents from making the same (criminal) mistake?

What about the mother who drove her kids into the lake intentionally? Should parent''s accidentally leaving their kids in the car be punished in the same capacity?

This is a particularly tough case. The law is a balancing act of what will best serve justice and I don''t think the resolution to this case lies in criminal law, unless of course intent was involved.
 

Maria D

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Date: 3/8/2009 8:34:02 PM
Author: purrfectpear
As a single mom I knew stress, fatigue, and a myriad of other burned out emotions. I never forgot I had a child in the carseat. Puhleeze. How the hell do you forget you have a kid with you? Sorry, just not buying it.


Crime.
purrfect, if you read the article you''ll get the answer to your question. In the days that my daughter was an infant, and I''m guessing the same would be true for your child(ren), parents put their tots in the passenger seat. Now the child''s carseat must go in the back to avoid airbag impact and it must be rear-facing. Since the proliferation of passenger side airbags and the protocol of rear-facing child carseats, the incidence of children being "forgotten" in the back seat has increased.

The vast majority of the time parents do NOT forget. Occasionally they do. Again, it usually happens when routines are broken, fatigue is in place, and auto-pilot takes over. (The article explains the brain science behind this). Sometimes when parents forget it is tragic. That''s when we hear about it.

If you read the article, you''ll read about how devices have been created that would alert the driver to a child being left behind in the backseat. They haven''t been produced because studies have shown they wouldn''t be marketable. Why not? Because, as is evidenced in this thread, people believe this would NEVER happen to them.

Remember those annoying "Baby-On-Board" signs from the ''80s that people used to stick on their rear windshield presumably because you would be less likely to rear end them if you knew there was a baby in the backseat? Maybe those signs should make a comeback -- but this time be placed on the driver''s side window to remind parents!
 

TravelingGal

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17,193
I couldn''t make it past page one of the article. I can''t read stuff like this.

I would think it would never happen to me. But if it did, me going to prison would be the least of anyone''s worries. I''d slit my wrists myself. I can barely read this article without feeling tangible pain for the parents. I can''t imagine how agonizing it would be for me.

To answer the question - IMHO, anyone who honestly mistakenly kills their own child like this, I don''t think I could bear to make anyone suffer more by charging them with a crime.
 

movie zombie

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Date: 3/8/2009 7:37:07 PM
Author: strmrdr
crime
an understatement.

mz
 

Brown.Eyed.Girl

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Crime. Without a doubt it should be a crime. There''s no excuse in my book for this kind of gross negligence when it leads to the death of a child (or death in general). Even if they didn''t intend to, well it''s not going to bring that child back.
 

BlueSki231

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I read the article and i still cannot comprehend how something like this can happen..

SERIOUSLY??
 

Feralpenchant

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I read the ENTIRE article, start to finish. I do NOT think this is a crime, I do NOT think it should be punishable with prison time, and I do NOT think that these parents EVER thought that this would happen to them. These are people that just.. forgot. As the article says, this has happened to a pediatrician, a mental health counselor, an accountant, a ROCKET SCIENTIST. It has nothing to do with a group of people. And and I thought it was well stated when in the article it said "Fear of a prison sentence is not going to prevent people from doing this." It''s UNCONSCIOUS.

I left my cat inside my work when I left one night, and I shudder to think what would have happened if I had forgotten to take her inside, rather than bring her out. If I can forget my cat, I can forget a child. That scares me. But do I think I am unfit to have children for this reason? Absolutely not. But I WILL be investing in one of the weight alarms that were mentioned in this article. EVERY parent should have one. Even if you think this could not happen to you.

Granted there are situations where leaving the child in the car was a clever attempt at getting out of parental duties. But if you read about the police tapes on file with Lyn Balfour, she was genuinely traumatized. Let the courts and the evidence decide if these people are monsters. I think the article speaks for itself.

It mentioned in the article that sometimes when your "smart parts" of your brain are thinking about planning your day, your "routine" part of your brain goes into autopilot, so when you drive to work, sometimes you arrive with no real comprehension of how you got there, but you can remember what you thought about on the way to work. I have to say this happens to me ALL THE TIME. All the more reason to prepare and work on staying alert.

This is completely understandable. Is it forgivable? Yes. I would be able to forgive someone who did this. Finding strength to forgive yourself, I think that might be impossible.

I think Lyn Balfour is an angel to offer a second chance to Mr. Miles and his wife. No one deserves to have this happen and be punished for it for the rest of their lives.

I think what I said might be a wee bit controversial, but that''s what I think, and that''s all I''m gonna say.


For the sake of this thread, everyone please read all of the article, or as much as you can bear to read. There is a lot of good information in there and different ways of seeing things. I think the author did a good job at being neutral.
 

LilyOfTheValley

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Crime. Plain and simple. No excuse. I can imagine forgetting your child momentarily, but forgetting your child long enough so that s/he would die? Pleeeease!
 

Lynnie

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Any responsible parent would know better. It''s a shame that the type of society we live in has become so rush, rush, get things done, don''t have time to sit for two minutes anymore.

Criminal? I don''t know... definitely negligence, at the very least. I''ve heard stories of grandparents doing this as well, due to the old age/dementia/forgetfullness. In that type of case, I would just call it a tragic accident.

I don''t have kids (yet), but would never, never leave a child unattended in a car even for a few minutes. Maybe my opinion would be different if I didn''t live in a crime-infested city, though.
 

allycat0303

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Well I might get flamed for this, but I don''t think it is a crime.

I think it''s a horrible tragedy, but like a lot of tragedies that befall children. i.e accidental ingestion of poison(well you should have locked up the chemicals), drowning in the swimming pool (the gate should have been locked), or hitting a child with your SUV (it''s your responsibility to check).

I don''t see how it''s different from all those other accidents. They are ALL human failings, and we are all human.
 

Italiahaircolor

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My personal belief is that accidents is cars can be fender benders, locking your keys inside, running out of gas, running over a garbage can....but absolutely not leaving your child locked inside a car.

Shame on anyone who thinks forgetting a child is an accident.
 

allycat0303

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Date: 3/9/2009 7:10:34 AM
Author: Italiahaircolor
My personal belief is that accidents is cars can be fender benders, locking your keys inside, running out of gas, running over a garbage can....but absolutely not leaving your child locked inside a car.

Shame on anyone who thinks forgetting a child is an accident.
SHAME ON ANYONE THAT THINKS FORGETTING A CHILD IS AN ACCIDENT???

I''m sorry Italianhaircolor, I think it''s an accident, and I don''t think I should be ASHAMED of my opinon. I just don''t understand why this situation is much different from drowning accidents or other ones. I think it''s careless, but I think the same thing when a baby drowns in a pool. Maybe we are more fixated because we feel that dying of hypothermia is worst (i.e more painful) but I think drowning is awful, and being hit by a car is awful. And a baby drinking drano???? Uhmmm, that burns up your entire esophagus. So that''s pretty painful too. I don''t see why no one talks about leaving your cleaning products onlocked as being gross negligence or a crime.
 

neatfreak

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Date: 3/9/2009 6:40:27 AM
Author: allycat0303
Well I might get flamed for this, but I don't think it is a crime.


I think it's a horrible tragedy, but like a lot of tragedies that befall children. i.e accidental ingestion of poison(well you should have locked up the chemicals), drowning in the swimming pool (the gate should have been locked), or hitting a child with your SUV (it's your responsibility to check).


I don't see how it's different from all those other accidents. They are ALL human failings, and we are all human.
I'm with Ally here...I see this situation differently. We aren't talking about a parent who left their child in the car on purpose, we are talking about an accident. Is it negligent? Yes. But it's not a crime IMO unless we are talking about the rare situation where it's questionable about whether the parent knew what they were doing or not.

I might get flamed for this here but I'm a very new mom. Of twins. And sometimes I am so freaking tired that I can't do anything right. I have left the kettle on about 3 times, left my keys in the front door, etc. All kinds of things. Luckily nothing has happened, and I am very grateful for that. But I have made many mistakes that could have ended in trouble.

Do I like to think I am above creating a situation where my children could be harmed? Absolutely. But I also think these kind of things can happen to anyone, especially when you are so tired you are basically as good as drunk.

Can all of you who think this is a crime honestly say that you ALWAYS do the right things as parents? Because I know I sure can't and I've only been at this a few months.
 

Steel

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Crime v’s mistake?



Where is it, that these two are mutually exclusive?

 

iheartscience

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Date: 3/9/2009 7:10:34 AM
Author: Italiahaircolor
My personal belief is that accidents is cars can be fender benders, locking your keys inside, running out of gas, running over a garbage can....but absolutely not leaving your child locked inside a car.

Shame on anyone who thinks forgetting a child is an accident.
Well that''s funny-I don''t feel ANY shame! But shame on anyone who will vilify a loving parent who will be tortured with horrifying, unimaginable guilt for the rest of their lives.

Let me repeat my earlier question: Did you read the article? Your personal belief doesn''t mean much when there''s an article full of scientific facts explaining why this can happen.

The article clearly explains exactly how this happens, and it also explains that no one thinks it could happen to them, and that everyone who hears about it automatically assumes these parents are monsters because they can''t imagine anything otherwise. However, an ACCIDENT is exactly what this is.

My fiance was run over by his father when he was a kid-are his parents monsters who didn''t love him? Nope-they''re loving parents who didn''t know where he was for 2 minutes. He was fine, but he could have easily been NOT fine.

This type of vilification and refusal to accept that this could happen to anyone is actually exactly why there are no safety regulations in place to prevent this from happening again.
 

elrohwen

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I'm not a lawyer and have no experience with the law, so I'm hoping someone else can answer this question for me. You can hit someone with your car and it can be considered manslaughter in certain cases. I'm pretty sure that even in those cases, the person charged did not intend to hit someone. So I don't get why the DAs in these cases can decide to not press charges because there is no intent to harm the child. It makes no sense to me! Sure, there's no intent, but that doesn't mean you can't be charged with something, right? Even if it's an accident I believe the parent should be charged because it's gross negligence.

Vesper, this article made me so unhappy
I just don't understand how someone could possibly leave their child in the car for 8-9 hours without any idea! And the tone of the article, making it sound like these things just happen ... ridiculous. I understand that this could possibly happen to anyone, but I don't think that means the person shouldn't be charged.

ETA: Also, how can they even compare forgetting to pick up your kid at daycare to leaving them in the car for 8 hours? In the first case, the kid is not with you, so I see how it's possible to forget or get signals crossed with your spouse. In the second case, the kid is 12" away from you in the backseat!! How the heck do you forget that your child is there?? You put the kid in the car seat yourself!
 
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