"Forgotten Child" - The Real Numbers

The most respected source for data on child heatstroke vehicle related deaths is Professor Jan Null of the University of San Franscisco* and related website ggweather.com/heat. The media will often cite numbers from ggweather.com when a forgotten child story breaks. However, when they do so, they often cite the annual totals without clarifying or explaining that the totals include not just  deaths due to "forgetting" but  child vehicle heatstroke deaths due to all causes including  “climb ins”, “trunk entrapment”, “knowingly left”, and "miscommunication between parents". So as to better understand the extent and circumstances of the deaths caused purely by the caregiver forgetting, I examined the last six years worth of accidents using Professor Null's database as a starting reference. By reading the the original article on his website for each of the accidents and where necessary by doing further research, I was able to ascertain which of the total were truly deaths due to “forgetting”.Here then are what I think are the most accurate numbers available:

2008 - 18 
2009 - 12
2010 - 17
2011 -   9
2012 - 15
2013 - 15 
2014 - 20 

More interestingly, I also looked into the circumstances as far as whether
the parent or caregiver forgot the child in the driveway of their own home,
on the way to work or work related trip, or in a shopping center. Here is
what I found: 

​               Work       Home      Shopping     Not Clear     
2008           8            10
2009           9              3
2010           8              8                                  1
2011           6              3 
2012         10              3                1                 1
2013         10              3                0                 2
2014         10              9                                   1
Total:       61             39               1                  5

As you can see not surprisingly 60%  of the "distraction location" as I refer to it was work. In the typical case, the child falls asleep,  the parent/caregiver simply loses mental awareness of the child somewhere along the route and goes right by the day care or baby sitters, and the parent/driver leaves them in the parking lot at their job or place of business. 

The other approximate 40% was the parent/caregiver not bringing the child in after pulling into the driveway. These even I have a hard time believing but it I think that  probably had heavily to do with physical or mental exhaustion as well as distraction. I also suspect that these could have also been due to the "non-routine" parent picking up the child and then out of habit, just going inside the house. This is what happened on Staten Island in New York last summer where one of the family cars was not working and so the father had to drive both the mother and baby to drop her off at her job. If I understood the articles on this incident correctly, from what I can piece together, he worked nights and would come home in the morning then sleep. Of course they took the child with them but when the father returned after dropping his wife off at work, he went straight into the house to sleep,  just doing what he did every morning.

Surprisingly enough and contrary to popular image, I only found one case where the child was left and died in a shopping center parking lot. By the way, the persons taking care of the child in that case were the grandparents so age might have factored into it. Although pure conjecture on my part, the number left might be actually higher but fortunately they never made the news as a passersby saw or heard the child and either called police or notified store management. This is not to say that there have not been dozens of  cases reported of children being left in cars in shopping center parking lots. However, given what the data shows, it strongly suggests to me that these shopping center incidents are ones where the stupid parent irresponsibly left the child in the car consciously. To me, this is grounds for arrest and prosecution. 

Also not included are cases wherein the child was found and rescued and this is reported. However, what is not reported later on as it is not immediately obvious at the time of the incident is that the child was in the car so long that brain damage resulted. There are a number of such equally tragic cases. 

Another aspect I looked into, mostly out of curiosity, was "who" was the person with the child at the time - the mother vs. the father vs. a relative or friend. Here are the results: 

         Mother   Father  Friend     Not Clear  

2008      7            8          3              0
2009      6            4          1              1
2010      6            9          2              0
2011      4            3          2              0
2012      2            8          3              2
2013      5            5          3              2
​2014      3          11          3 (all men) 3
Total     33        48        17

%         33%      50%     17%

I guess the point I get from these statistics is directed at the "moms" who I see make the comments "I could never do this...my children are always on  my mind... they are my number one priority....can't comprehend how could anyone do this" in the comments section of the news articles when these accidents happen.  That all might be true but I have to ask, "Are you the only one who drives your child?" because nearly 2/3rd's of the children who did die, died in the care of someone other than their mother. 

​Just food for thought. 

​* Source of original database referenced: Jan Null, CCM, Department of Geoscience, San Francisco State University, http://ggweather.com/heat/ 
The data on this page may only be used if attribution is given to "Backseatbabyalarm.com", plus a live link back to this page. 
The point I hope people get out of these devastating numbers is to wake up to the fact that these incidents are not random, freak accidents. Freak accidents can't be anticipated or predicted. These can. The sad but certain truth is that there are probably 10-15 parents out there right now who are fated to lose the most precious thing in their lives during the five months of the summer of 2015 and the worse part will be that they themselves will be responsible for that loss. I don't know if I will succeed, but I am hoping to change that even if it is just one family spared the trauma of going through this. 
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