Don’t Leave the Kid in the Car. Look Before You Lock
Car seats are a pain in the ass. Seriously. Just last week I pinched my knuckle in one and got a nasty little blood blister while buckling my daughter in. You know what else is a pain? Lugging kids around while running errands. “Mom, I want to push the buttons on the ATM!” “Mommy buy me some juice!” “I want some Skittles!” “Put that down!”…crash! It’s enough to tempt any normally rational parent, just this once, to leave the kids in the car while running into the store to grab a couple of things.
Don’t. Just don’t.
Especially in the summer, the news is rife with reports of parents who have intentionally, or unintentionally, left their kids strapped in and alone in the car, essentially baking inside a steel and glass prison. The lucky ones are found and rescued by kind strangers who call the authorities. Sure, it may result in legal troubles for the parent(s) of these children as well as hefty car repair bills to fix the damage authorities will cause while extracting your kids, but if not for caring bystanders willing to take action, the alternative could have been much worse.
The unlucky ones are also found, but much too late.
These stories usually involve a parent who forgot to drop off their sleeping child at their destination, and then went about their day – until the horrifying moment that they realize their mistake. The Washington Post published a heartbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning article about several parents who went through the ordeal of losing a child in such a painful manner, parents whose lives will never be the same again, and must live with the consequences every day. The article posed the question of whether or not these parents committed a crime.
Can you imagine a worse punishment than to ponder upon the fact that you were responsible for your own child’s death?
HEATSTROKE DEATH STATISTICS
Consider the statistics: Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Last year, 33 kids died because someone left them inside a vehicle on a hot day. In 2010, the number was 49. It’s staggering, partially because it’s completely avoidable.
Sadly, parents who adore their children, the kinds of moms and dads who take care to select organic fruits and choose BPA-free bottles, cause the majority of these deaths. In other words, it can happen to the best of us.
Forgetting a child in the back seat used to be a relatively rare problem. It has only been since the early 1990s, when legislation passed which mandated that child seats be placed in the rear seat, where it’s safer, that there’s been an uptick in deaths from heat stroke. Out of sight, out of mind. Until that terrible moment when you realize that you left the most important person in the world inside a torture chamber.
WHERE’S THE BABY? LOOK BEFORE YOU LOCK
In an effort to reverse this alarming trend, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a nationwide ad program that urges parents to ask themselves: “Where’s the baby? Look before you lock.”
Here are some other tips that the campaign suggests:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away
- Ask your childcare provider to call if your child does not arrive for care as expected
- Do things that serve as a reminder that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left in the vehicle
- Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach
SPEEDY MOMMY SAYS…
“But it would never happen to me,” you say. “I would never forget my child. I’m just going in for a minute.” We’d bet none of the 33 parents who told themselves the very same thing last year would ever have thought they would be a part of a horrifying statistic.
Imagine how easy it is to forget an item at the market. Now imagine how common it is to quickly run into a store to pick up that one thing, and then to get a phone call that you’ve been expecting, or to see something on sale that you’ve been meaning to get, or to pick up that magazine with Brangelina’s engagement ring on the cover.
It’s not out the realm of possibility, then, to forget that your child is left alone in the car, is it? All of a sudden, it’s been 15 minutes since you left your sleeping toddler in the car. That’s more than enough time for someone to call the cops to rescue your child, landing you in hot water with Child Protective Services. Far worse, that’s also enough time for the car to get dangerously overheated and for your precious child to suffer brain damage, or death.
Risk the blood blister. Don’t leave the kid in the car. And check out the safercar.gov website for more details.
– Liz Kim