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Experts fear that the number child hot car deaths could increase this summer

Justin Ross Harris infant car death
Posted at 2:52 PM, Jan 19, 2022

On Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments in a high-profile case involving a child who died in a hot car.

Justin Ross-Harris is the only person ever to be given life in prison without the possibility of parole in a case where a child died in a hot car. He was convicted of murdering his son Cooper, among other charges.

Ross-Harris appealed for a new trial on the basis that there were court errors, but also around other circumstances about the case. There was a lot of inflammatory and graphic evidence related to Harris' relationships outside his marriage.

"I have been documenting and working with these cases for so many years, and I know them very well. There is not one case that I can think of where somebody intentionally used this kind of situation to murder their child," said Amber Rollins, the director of Kids & Car Safety.

Rollins says hot car child deaths are among the most misunderstood issues, and cases like Harris' are dangerous because they make people think it couldn't happen to them.

"People really believe that hot car deaths happened to bad parents, negligent parents, parents who just don't want their kids, or they have alcohol or drug problems, and none of that is the case," Rollins said.

She adds that almost every death where a child is left in a car is due to a change in routine or distraction — something as simple as a phone call.

Hot car deaths went down in 2020 and 2021 when fewer people were going to work and dropping kids off with caregivers. But the two years before that were the worst in history, with more than 50 deaths in both 2018 and 2019.

Advocates are worried those numbers will quickly go back up.

"It's day-to-day, it's minute-to-minute," Rollins said. "Currently, my son's daycare is closed, they let me know while I was on my way to drop him off. I mean, it's chaos for families right now, and everyone's in survival mode, and that is a recipe for disaster."

Technology is eventually coming to new cars as part of the new infrastructure law that will alert the driver when a child may be left behind in the backseat.