It happened again last week in Nashville.
Every few days, some irresponsible adult has been arrested for leaving children in a car, on a sweltering day. Some of these incidents have ended in tragedy. Fortunately, in others, someone got to the children in time, and police were waiting to arrest the person who left them in unbearable heat.
I never took the time to thank my parents for always getting me out of the car. I guess I just took it for granted. Evidently, they were responsible people who valued my life. So I will do that publicly, although posthumously now. Thank you Hoyt and Ruth Carroll, for allowing me live, and to grow up. These days, some children are not getting that opportunity.
I’d say it’s a safe bet that the topic of leaving a child to swelter inside a locked automobile was never covered in my parents’ school days. As for myself, I had a driver education class, and the topic of removing a child from a hot car never even came up. I guess our teacher assumed we could figure that out on our own.
But it has now become apparent that the skill of removing a child from a blazing-hot auto has not been mastered by all. Whether it is carelessness or meanness, there are those among us who leave our most vulnerable and helpless passengers, our small children inside these oven-like tombs.
So how do we combat the problem? Lately, we have put signs up at the entrance to stores. “Look before you leave.” “Where’s your baby?”
We have become a nation that finds it necessary to post these signs. We must be reminded not to leave anything important in our car before we run in for our Slim Jims, lottery tickets and Red Bull. The signs basically say, "Dear parent, did you forget anything? Like, your phone, your wallet, or maybe a living, breathing thing like a child or an animal? We’re just checking!"
Did you have to be told by highway signs or store posters about not leaving anyone to die from heat stroke? When you went to the beauty shop, did the stylist ever say, “Before we get started, just to be on the safe side, did you leave your babies in the car?”
When these cases go to court, will the perpetrators go free if they tell the judge, “Your honor, I swear on the Bible, I never saw that sign on the Walmart door. If I had, I would have known not to leave my children in the car. They need to make the sign bigger, so I will see it next time.”
Or, “Your honor, how am I supposed to read those billboards, and those signs over the freeway? I’m watching the road, I can’t be reading signs! Besides, how am I supposed to know not to leave my kids in the car? That was not on the driver’s test. I had to take it four times, and it never said nothing about that.”
When our children were born, my wife, Cindy, and I left the hospital with no instruction manual. I guess nowadays, someone needs to be at the exit door with a checklist: “New parents, before you leave, you do know that you must feed and clean this child regularly, right? And one more thing: never leave him locked up in a hot car.”
There is even a medical website called “Tips on Keeping Your Kids Safe from Heat Strokes in Hot Cars.” Here are the secrets that some people don’t know: Never leave kids alone in a hot car. Always check the front and back seats of the car before you lock it and leave. Put your purse, or something else you need by the child’s car seat, so you don’t forget to check.”
Read that last sentence again. Yes, if you put something you NEED by the car seat ... maybe you won’t forget your child.
Finally, since necessity is the mother of invention, several folks have invented devices that will signal an alarm when a child is left in a hot car. These fine people recognize that common sense is now in short supply. We can no longer be trusted to have the basic parenting skills necessary to prevent our children from being left alone to suffer and die in the heat. We need alarms, sirens, motion detectors and flashing lights to remind us that we are parents.
I first wrote about this issue a few years ago. Almost immediately, a young female attorney chewed me out, saying, “Your children are grown. You have no idea what young parents are going through today. We are under so much pressure, and have so many distractions in our lives.”
God help our children.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, news anchorman, is the author of the book
“Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best columns. You may contact David
at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @davidcarroll3.