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Why Do Parents Continue to Leave Children in Hot Cars?

Baby in Car Seat
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

After two babies died in overheated cars over the July 4th weekend, you have to ask yourself why this continues to happen. On Friday in Virginia, a mom forgot to drop off her 8-month-old at day care and went to work. On that same day in Maryland, a relative left a 16-month-old girl in a car for four hours by mistake. By the time these people realized their mistakes, it was too late.

According to KidsAndCars.org, this happens around 30 times a year in the U.S., and here’s an inkling of why: Even when temperatures outside the car are only in the 60s, the temperature inside a car can soar to over 110 degrees, rising 20 degrees in under 10 minutes. Plus, kids don’t regulate heat as well as adults, rising three to five times as fast.

In 2009, Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about why kids get left in cars. “What kind of person forgets a baby?” Weingarten mused. “The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. … A Protestant clergyman. … An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.”

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