Don’t Forget About Forgotten Baby Syndrome

by Julianne Hoekstra
Infants sleeping in car seats can be forgotten increasing the risk of hot car death

Things were a little hectic this morning. You didn’t get much sleep last night because your son was fussy. But you’re in the car now, on your way to drop your son off at daycare – and then off to work. Your son has decided to take a nap in his car seat.

Suddenly, you get a call from your boss – there is a crisis at work! You frantically try to get it sorted out over the phone, and you tell her that you’re on your way in.

As soon as that phone call ends, you get another phone call. Another crisis! As you finish dealing with this you arrive at work. You have a busy day full of work, tasks and errands. While you work you have this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you forgot something. But you don’t know what it could be.

It isn’t until you get back to your car that you realize what you’ve forgotten – your son, still in the back seat.

Hot car deaths due to Forgotten Baby Syndrome happen more often than you may realize. 

If you’re reading this, you may wonder how someone could ever forget their child in a car. Unfortunately, this situation does happen. The above is the story of Lyn, who tragically forgot her son in her car, and returned to find him dead, due to hyperthermia. Lyn worked at the Army JAG office. She loved her son, and would never have intentionally left him in danger.[1]

Last year alone, there were 53 child hot car deaths in the United States, according to The circumstances under which the child was left in the car are not noted.[2] Some of these hot car deaths have even resulted in criminal charges – one high profile American circuit court judge was charged with negligent homicide back in 2016, when he left his son in the car for nearly five hours before he realized that his son was still in the backseat.[3] This judge was ultimately found not guilty by an American jury – but that doesn’t take away his profound loss and feelings of guilt for his son’s tragic death.[4]

Avoid tragedy by creating good car safety habits. 

Despite the fact that these deaths happen, most people are not aware of Forgotten Baby Syndrome and hot car deaths. This summer we experienced very hot temperatures and, as we head into September, there are sure to more hot days ahead. With the hot weather, please keep top of mind the need to always be aware of who is in your vehicle. You can take simple steps like developing a habit of always checking the back of your car when you arrive at a destination or leaving your bag in the backseat next to the car seat – so you’ll notice if the car seat isn’t empty.

These are a couple of simple tips to ensure that this tragedy doesn’t happen to you. Keeping our kids safe must be a priority.


[1] Gene Weingarten, Fatal Distraction, Washington Post, March 8, 2009 at 14, 25; as cited in Erika Breitfeld, Hot-Car Deaths and Forgotten –Baby Syndrome: A Case Against Prosecution, Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, 25:1, at 80.

[2], 2019 Child Hot Car Deaths, available at

[3]Sarah Chaffin, Judge arrested in hot car death of son, KATV (Feb. 11, 2016), available at

[4] David Showers, Fill-in costs for Arkansas judge acquitted in hot-car death of son exceed $68,000, ARK. DEMOCRAT GAZETTE (Feb. 21, 2017),