With all the recent reports of children dying in overheated cars, some moms wonder, "Could this be intentional?"
We told you last week that 21 kids have died in hot cars just this summer alone. This week, add 3-year-old twins from Kansas to the list, after they were discovered dead in the family car two hours after being reported missing. Depending on the state, as many as 40% of parents aren't charged with murder. Are all these cases accidents?
While Kids and Cars--a national nonprofit group that advocates for child safety--tells momlogic that the numbers for 2008 haven't been released yet, here are some interesting facts surrounding this phenomenon: A recent Associated Press analysis of more than 310 fatal incidents in the past 10 years found that prosecutions and penalties for parents vary widely--depending on who left the child in the car.
Surprisingly, moms are treated much more harshly than dads. And while mothers and fathers both commit this crime at about the same rate, moms are 26% more likely to go to prison--and their sentence is two years longer than terms received by dads.
Why do women get a harsher rap? Experts say moms are held to a higher standard in the justice system than they are in family life generally. Could it be because women are supposed to hone that maternal instinct--and when they fail to protect their children, they're seen as failures themselves? Or maybe it's because most lawmakers are men--and the difference in gender hinders their ability to relate and empathize?
You're probably wondering how a parent--any parent--could leave their kid to die in the first place. The reasons vary. Some kids crawl into a car or trunk without being noticed by their parents, while other moms just get pre-occupied. It sounds far-fetched, but research shows a stressed-out brain can forget a kid as easily as it can a pair of keys when it goes on autopilot. And finally, others simply don't realize how quickly a car heats up, even on a moderate day (the temperature inside a car can rise more than 40 degrees in one hour--and cracking the window does little to help).
But do the reasons even matter? The law in some states like Tennessee says no--that punishments are handed out according to the outcome--not the intent. While in cities like Las Vegas, it's been the policy of the Clark County prosecutor's office not to file charges unless there is proof the parent meant to harm the child.
Some moms even discussed the phenomenon as the perfect crime for moms who go over the edge. Knowing many parents who make this error never see the inside of a courtroom or jail cell, is it possible moms who murder their children are blaming a faulty memory for the crime they willfully committed?