At least 16 children have died in hot cars in the United States so far in 2019. Last year, the number of heat-related child deaths in vehicles was the highest in recorded history.
I never thanked my parents for always removing me from their parked vehicles. I did thank them for various things over the years, but I guess I took that "hot car" thing for granted.
I'm fortunate, as are you, that most adults have that innate nurturing gene that triggers their brain to remove a child from a dangerous environment.
I attended school when Driver Education was an important class, but the topic of removing a child from a hot car never came up. I guess our teacher assumed we could figure that out on our own.
So how are we addressing the problem? We post signs on interstate highways and at store entrances, reminding us not to ignore our children. At the rate we are going, hair stylists will soon be legally required to ask, “Before I start cutting your hair, did you leave your babies in the car?”
There are websites with “Tips on Keeping Your Kids Safe from Heat Strokes in Cars.” Here’s one of those tips: “Put your cell phone, or something else you need by the child's car seat, so you don't forget the child." Read that last sentence again. Yes, if you put something you NEED by the car seat, maybe you won't forget your child.
We have devices that signal an alarm when a child is left in a hot car. We have reached the point where we need sirens, motion detectors and flashing lights to remind us that we are parents.
When I first wrote about this in 2015, I got an angry call from a woman who said she was “an attorney, and a great parent.” She yelled, “I can’t believe you wrote that! How long has it been since your children were little?” “About twenty years,” I told her. She ranted on. “Then you have NO IDEA what’s it like having small children and a full-time job today,” she said. I did admit I didn’t have a cellphone back then. She said between job commitments, appointments, and other distractions, it wasn’t that hard to forget something. She had left her own child in a car, although it wasn’t fatal. So, she told me, it could even happen to an educated professional. She didn’t win me over.
How, in this age of information, so readily available at our fingertips, did we become so stupid? Look at a box of rice. Right there, on the label, it tells us “Caution: Contents become hot when heated.” Oh, so that’s what happens when you heat something.
Read the warning on a box of trash bags. “Keep all plastic garbage bags away from babies. Also, do not use these bags in cribs.” Yes, someone has to tell us this.
Buy a jar of Orville Redenbacher popcorn. You’ll see this on the label: “Popcorn is not recommended for infants, as it can pose a choking threat to their safety.” Because, obviously, some parents have no clue.
This is why we must post signs that say “Stay away from falling rocks.” There is also “Do not play golf when it is lightning.” And my favorite, “No diving in empty pools.” Thank goodness for those life-saving signs.
Occasionally, there were useful educational films in my school days. In 8th grade science class, the teacher showed us a film about food poisoning. At the end, he emphasized the importance of proper food preparation. Otherwise, he told us, “You will get dia-rear.” I had dia-rear once, and that was enough for me.
Recently passed laws are intended to keep us from holding our phones while driving. Also prohibited is watching a video while driving.” Yes, it is true. They had to make this a law. Otherwise, how would we know it is dangerous? One officer told me he pulled over a young woman who was obviously watching a video. Her excuse? “I needed to get a recipe.”
Do we also need laws that prohibit driving while holding a cheeseburger in one hand, and a Slurpee in the other? People do that, too.
It has gotten to the point that if you tell someone their state is ranked #48 in the nation in education, the reply is likely to be, “Oh yeah? Out of how many?”
Yes, we used to ride around without seat belts, and we were totally unprotected and unrestrained in the back of station wagons and pickup trucks.
Back then, we had an excuse. We didn’t know any better. Now we do. Don’t we?
God help the children.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best stories. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.