Like many of you, I have been shocked and saddened by the huge spike in heatstroke related to cars and children this year. Already, the death toll has surpassed 2015 statistics. For the whole year. And it’s only August 17. That’s staggering and a strong indicator of an issue that needs to be addressed.
Are you one of those people who is quick to judge the parents? I used to be. How can you forget your child? If you would lay down your life for your child, how could you possibly forget your child in a car on a hot day?
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how easily I could be one of those parents. Life is crazy. Life is fast-paced. Always trying to focus on the next task, the next destination – our mental check-list in our head is continually moving at a rapid pace as we add extra to-do’s to our already overly insane schedule.
So imagine this. Imagine this is you.
It’s a school day for your 3 kids. It’s a regular, crazy morning as you make sure each child has their backpack, sweaters, shoes on, homework packed, as you head out the door. You commend your children on co-operating so well this morning as you steer your vehicle towards school to drop off. Traffic happens. Your thoughts wander to what you’re going to feed the family for dinner and how you need to prepare for the upcoming family vacation.
As you near the school, you realize you’re now late. You speed into the school parking lot and the kids fly out the sliding doors of your minivan and slam them behind them. You wave as they are quickly enveloped by the rest of the schoolyard children, take a sip of your coffee, and head out to your next destination. You head to the mall. Thinking about dinner, it would be nice to shop the produce market, butcher and bakery all conveniently located at your nearby shopping centre.
You grab your coffee as you leave your van, lock the doors, and head to the mall. While there, you are distracted by a great sale at your favourite clothing store. And then realize you forgot you are out of soap so maybe you should pick out something nice since it is on sale at the store next door. Eventually you finish your to-do list – 3 hours later.
You head back to your van and are shocked to see it surrounded by police and ambulance vehicles. You scream as you approach, asking “what is going on?” A woman runs at you, pointing her fingers in your face as she yells “how could you do this to your child? How could you leave your child to die?”
You’re confused – you dropped your children off at the school.
But your kindergartner fell asleep on the way to school. You didn’t realize it. In the confusion at drop-off, you thought another blonde-haired child on the playground was your own and you waved good bye.
So now I ask, could it happen to you? What are we doing as a country, or personally, to prevent this from becoming an already growing epidemic?
The thought scares me. I double-check, sometimes triple-check my vehicle when I park my van at the Skytrain station before heading onto the train. What if Meagan had run back in to be “funny” and was hiding in the back? What if I was distracted in the regular morning drop-off rituals and just forgot to drop Noah off at daycare? The possibilities are endless.
So what’s my point? I’m not quite sure. We need to stop condemning these parents and caregivers who really will be serving a life sentence for forgetting their kids in cars on a hot day. We need to be vigilant and overly cautious and double-check our vehicles before exiting.
But I also believe it’s time for car seat and vehicle manufacturers to step up and pay attention. This is a problem. It needs to be addressed. Changes have to be made. Kids have to stop dying.
If you really believe this couldn’t happen to you, please check out Kids and Cars and read a story or two on how it has happened to so many loving, caring parents, such as yourself.