I can still see myself now, the first-time father, reading the instructions as to how to properly install the rear-facing car seat. I can remember the sweat running down my temples as I slipped in the seat belt through the back opening, attached the restraining lines, and eventually secured the base. I took a deep breath, drove to the hospital, and prepared to bring my wife and infant daughter home for the first time.
Telling this story now, I recall all my fears and concerns about getting the car seat installed properly. I am certain that any parent who has had to do this may relate to the time and effort taken to make sure to get it right. Of course, the necessary and compelling motivation for all the effort is because we are carrying the most precious cargo that will ever be in our care – our babies!
It is incongruous to believe that any parent, having gone through all that effort to install a car seat, could ever forget that a child is sitting in it; however, the truth is that more kids are dying in hot cars than ever before. Since car seats were invented to protect our children (more than when my mother and so many others held kids on their laps in the front seat), how can it be that people “forget” their kids in those contraptions?
Since a child is strapped in and cannot extract him/herself from the car seat, it is almost always a death sentence as the temperature climbs inside the car. Within ten minutes in a car with closed windows, the interior of an automobile can reach well over 100º making the conditions unbearable and quickly lethal for the child.
There is evidence in the most recent incident in Georgia, that little Cooper Harris (22 months old) damaged his head and scratched his face in his desperate last minutes as he apparently tried to escape his car seat. The facts in this case become increasingly more disturbing, including the story reported by CNN that his father was sexting while his son died inside that hot car. Other stories include a very disturbing report that both the father and mother researched children and animals dying in hot cars before the incident.
It is one thing if a parent forgets a child in a car seat (as impossible as that seems to believe for most parents); however, for a parent to deliberately plan to leave a child in the car, to research the length of time it takes for that child to die, and then to go inside an air conditioned building while said child suffers and dies is nothing short of murder.
I’m not saying that a parent might not forget the child is there for a few seconds, perhaps as he or she brings in groceries or gets the door open, but it is hard to fathom that this memory lapse would last longer than that. Since a child is so dependent on parents at that time and all your daily actions usually revolve around the care and well being of the child, that baby or toddler is the thing that is most pressing on your mind. We’re not talking about forgetting your pocketbook or wallet or cell in the car; this is a living and breathing child that is your responsibility.
I have heard many local stories about parents going into a store to shop while leaving a child in the car (here in the New York City area), but happily most of these end with concerned shoppers noticing the little ones in the cars and calling the police. Other stories involve parents who wanted to let their kids “sleep” while getting a coffee, running an errand, or playing Lotto. All the assorted excuses you can imagine are proposed, but none of them make sense or are remotely acceptable. Bottom line: a child should never be left in a car seat for any reason!
We have to hope that a case like that of little Cooper Harris will spark awareness for parents and the general population. It is up to all of us to assume an in loco parentis mentality and be vigilant when in shopping mall, grocery store, and other parking lots. Sadly, there is no sign of this type of behavior abating among certain parents, and we need to do everything we can to stop these horror stories from happening.
Parents should in general operate under two rules; Rule 1: your baby or child is your responsibility and deserves your protection at all times under your care, whether it is in the car, at home, or in a public place. Rule 2: there are no excuses to absolve you of your duties under Rule 1. Failure to adhere to these rules that results in injury or death of the child should be met with the most severe consequences.
These negligent parents need to be punished to the full extent of the law. If someone knowingly leaves a child locked in a hot car, it is no different than if he/she fed the child poison or left a loaded gun on the high chair. Perhaps charging these parents with murder will help change the ugly picture that has been developing with more frequency; unfortunately, such charges will be too late for the little ones already lost.
photo credits: wfmynews2.com; whattoexpect.com; northshore.org[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00I9ZXRG2] [amazon template=iframe image&asin=B002C0QIM0]