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December 7, 2021



Amber Rollins, director, Kids and Car Safety, 913-205-6973

Janette Fennell, president & founder, Kids and Car Safety, 415-336-9279

Families affected by hot car incidents, memory experts and filmmakers available for interviews upon request.

Documentary ‘Fatal Distraction’ featuring

Kids and Car Safety tells the untold story of a murder trial following a hot car death

The film will be available on iTunes Dec. 7

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Kids and Car Safety is thrilled to announce that the new documentary, Fatal Distraction, from director Susan Morgan Cooper will be available on iTunes Dec. 7. The film includes interviews with Kids and Car Safety’s president and founder, Janette Fennell as well as a number of Kids and Car Safety parent advocates who have experienced the tragic loss of a child in a hot car.

Fatal Distraction focuses on the untold story of the high-profile Georgia murder trial of Justin Ross Harris following the hot car death of his toddler son in 2014. Harris was immediately arrested and hours after 22-month-old Cooper Harris's tragic death, the Cobb County Police Department lied under oath to obtain search warrants of Harris's home. Finding evidence of an extramarital sex life on Harris's cell phone, the prosecution concocted a "double life" murder motive. The press then reported this information to create fast-selling, salacious stories which caused the public to judge Harris guilty before he ever saw a courtroom    .

Kids and Car Safety has been working tirelessly for over 25 years to prevent hot car tragedies. In 2018 and 2019 at least one child died every week of vehicular heatstroke according to Kids and Car Safety. In the overwhelming majority of hot car deaths, it was a loving, conscientious parent that was responsible. So, if hot car deaths happen with frightening regularity to loving families, the film begs the question -- was Harris guilty of a mistake or murder?

According to Kids and Car Safety, more than half of parents and caregivers who unknowingly left a child who died in a hot car were never charged or had all charges dropped. Of those who were charged, few served jail time and no one has ever received a life sentence without the possibility of parole except for Justin Ross Harris.


Inspired by Gene Weingarten's Pulitzer Prize-winning article, this documentary shows "there may be no issue of human failure that more challenges our notions about crime and punishment and mercy." The documentary premiered to rave reviews at Atlanta Docufest and Spotlight Documentary Film Fest and enthusiastic responses at DOCUtah and Dances with Films.

Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Car Safety, who was featured in the film said, “It is an honor to be a part of a film that sheds light on this very misunderstood and devastating issue. We hope viewers come away with a better understanding that losing awareness of a child in the back seat can literally happen to anyone, even those who adamantly believe it could never happen to them.”

Dr. David Diamond, a neuroscience professor at the University of South Florida, who was also featured in the documentary, has studied the science of tragic memory failures for over a decade. He has interviewed dozens of parents that have forgotten children in cars, and confirms that the Ross Harris case is a tragedy because Harris was convicted because of his extramarital activity, not because he wanted to harm his child. According to Diamond, Harris’ memory failure in this case is consistent with human error, not a failure of the love Ross Harris had for his son.

“Anyone who watched the news from 2014 to 2016 would have seen the salacious media coverage about Justin Ross Harris. Even though the details of his case align with so many other parents.” said Director Susan Morgan Cooper. “The Cobb County Police Dept. fed lies to the media and thus Justin Ross Harris was condemned as guilty before he ever went to trial. I believe in fighting for the truth and I'm grateful to shine a light on this tragic story.”


“The frightening reality is that child hot car deaths are not only common, but preventable. However, this story is about so much more than an avoidable tragedy. It is about a national crisis, a broken family and the demonizing of a man. Veteran filmmaker Susan Morgan Cooper has crafted an extraordinary, intimate and shocking film that will resonate with every viewer by her ability to adeptly move through the intersection of vehicle safety technology, parental behavior and crime. This is a much watch,” said Megan Huggins, Gravitas Ventures Acquisitions Coordinator.

Fatal Distraction is produced by Susan Morgan Cooper and Lara Thomas Ducey. Megan Huggins negotiated the deal with Morgan Cooper Productions for the film’s release    

More information on hot car deaths can be found here.

Official documentary press materials can be found here and here.

Official trailer can be found here.

Watch the film on iTunes:


About Kids and Car Safety

Kids and Car Safety is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children and pets in and around vehicles. Kids and Car Safety is devoted to eliminating vehicle-related risks to children and pets through data collection, research and analysis, public education and awareness programs, policy change, product redesign and supporting families to channel their grief into positive change. Our organization has a special focus on everyday events referred to as “nontraffic incidents” which includes being run over in parking lots or driveways, hot car deaths, carbon monoxide poisoning, car theft with children/animals inside, falls, knocking cars into gear, drowning from not being able to exit a submerged vehicle, underage drivers, power window strangulation, trunk entrapment, etc.


About Morgan Cooper Productions

Founded by Susan Morgan Cooper, Morgan Cooper Productions has been making socially impactful films for 25 years. Morgan Cooper's films have headlined film festivals, screened nationally and internationally and received praise from the likes of Roger Ebert. Filmography: Mirjana, One Girl's Journey (1997) -- a documentary about a Croatian girl displaced by the Balkan War. Sergio (2000), a short doc about an East LA cop taking a group of troubled kids off the streets and turning them into a championship roller hockey team. Sergio is currently being developed into a feature-length narrative film. An Unlikely Weapon (2009) is a stirring look at Pulitzer Prize-winning Eddie Adams, photographer of 13 wars, 6 American Presidents, and virtually every cultural and historical figure of the past 50 years. Mulberry Child (2012) traces the effects of The Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976) on a Chinese mother and her American-raised daughter living in modern-day Chicago. Hopper: In His Own Words (2013) provides a rare, warm and intimate portrait of one of Hollywood's most compelling and enigmatic personalities, Dennis Hopper. To The Moon and Back (2018) is the shocking chronicle of the Russian Adoption Ban and the American father targeted by Vladimir Putin; A story of scandal, murder and innocent orphans held hostage in a political chess game. The film had a Congressional Screening which helped to pass the Intercountry Adoption Information Act of 2020 -- ensuring greater transparency and accountability between adoptive countries.


Kids and Car Safety Website

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