by Alexandria Durrell

Yesterday was the funeral for a little toddler who died as a result of heat exposure when he was left alone in a car. It was also the day police confirmed that a small girl died as a result of the same mistake. Is “mistake” even the right word? It almost seems too trivial to call such an unthinkable, horrific accident a “mistake”.

The Canada Safety Council says that while Canadian statistics on these deaths are unknown, there are approximately 38 in the United States each year. We’ve now had two this week in Canada, and the official start of summer was just last week.

According to the CSC:

In the confined space of a car, temperatures can climb so rapidly that they overwhelm a child’s ability to regulate his or her internal temperature. In a closed environment, the body, especially a small body, can go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail.

Extreme heat affects infants and small children more quickly and dramatically than adults because of their size. Their core temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches 40.5ºC (105º F).

A study funded by General Motors of Canada found that within 20 minutes the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exposed to the sun on a 35ºC day (95º F) exceeded 50ºC (122º F). Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 65.5 ºC (150º F).

What is happening? Why are kids dying in these kinds of preventable “accidents”? I don’t know.

What I do know is that arguments are intense about the issue – it’s contentious because being forgetful is something we, as parents, know is a possibility, even a way of life. We have a thousand things to remember every day, sometimes things slip by us. But forgetting a child? In a blazing hot car? Is this something that simply slips the mind of a caregiver?

Is stress a plausible excuse for such an event? Psychologists say that it isn’t that uncommon a possibility, and in this article, a doctor explains exactly how it’s possible for a brain to simply forget about a child in the backseat, to tragic consequences. Studies show how this could happen to anyone. Anyone. Like me?

I don’t know what the answer is to this unspeakable sad event, but I know that I read a tip about how to help prevent these kinds of tragedies: place your purse, bag, cellphone, wallet – anything you need to take with you when you leave the car – in the backseat so you’re forced to go back there before you leave the car.

I would never want to impose judgment on a situation about which I know no details, but this is something we must all consciously make efforts to stop. Stop letting our children die in hot cars.


alex clippoAlexandria Durrell digs her humour like she likes her wine…dry. With a bite. She knows the lyrics to pretty much every song ever written, has a weakness for plaid and for all her complaining, she always finds the silver lining.  Her two kids and one husband (for now…she’s evaluating the benefits of Brother Husbands) are the things that make her happiest and most frustrated in life, and there’s not a thing she’d change about that.  Despite the name, she blogs here but is usually found in her pajamas on Twitter.



Must read:

Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?



Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.


  1. Thoughtfully written, Alex. And yes, it is unimaginable. And I think to protect ourselves we sometimes lash out at the caregiver who made such a tragic mistake. “They need to be sterilized.” “Their other children should be taken from them.” “I hope they learned their lesson.” When we do this, we distance ourselves from this. We need to think we could NEVER do this. Otherwise, if we don’t condemn and villify this behaviour as abhorent, maybe that means it COULD happen to us, and that’s something we just can’t let ourselves believe. It’s too horrific. So, instead we choose to cast stones.

    I get the protective behaviour, but… I just can’t stand to see these parents attacked after losing a child. I try to educate those I see attack with the articles that have been written. And the tips in them are great. We must all work to prevent this from happening. So, so sad.

  2. Jacki, I think lashing out is a natural response, though I agree, not effective. What I said over on my Facebook page was this: “…what’s important isn’t that we say “hey, coulda been anyone”, but that we instead acknowledge their loss, support people in their humanity, and take efforts to stop these things from happening.”

    It’s just so unbelievably sad.

  3. That’s true. I guess I’ve been trying to get people to see these parents are just like us, and in doing so, support them instead of attacking. I’ve been a bit.. feisty? passionate? in my responses. It really is about going forward and stopping this. It really, really shouldn’t ever happen. 🙁

  4. I can’t imagine the pain of those families who have suffered such tragic loss. I feel so terrible for those children whose lives were cut short. To forget your keys or purse in your car but your children? OMG, the horror.

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