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Jul 102014
 

086I, like many of you, am deeply disturbed by the epidemic that is sweeping across the state this summer.

On at least four different occasions parents have left young children in cars on hot days in the past two weeks. So far, one child has died.

With our busy schedules, everyone always in a hurry, it may be easy to be distracted and forget something in your car when you’re rushing off into your office or a store “for just a minute” — but a living being?

Looking back on the last 28 years, I have NEVER left a child or a dog in a car alone on a hot (or even slightly warm) day.

If it’s hot out, I think twice before I even leave the house. If it’s hot and humid I won’t even put my dog in the car when I’m going some place where that she could accompany me outside (like a baseball game or concert). When I’m especially busy and I know I will run into a store for 2 minutes, I simply leave her home.

My granddaughter and I spend a lot of time together. If we’re going somewhere and it’s hot outside, I run the air conditioning for a while before buckling her into her car seat. Thankfully, she is verbal and can tell me if she is comfortable or not.

When we go to the park, store or on assignment, I know I have to get out of the car, walk around to her side of the car, unbuckle her, get her out, walk around (with her) and lock the doors, then go where ever we are going.

At the playground, I touch the slides, swings and monkey bars to make sure the surfaces aren’t too hot for her delicate skin. (She’s never happy when I tell her she can’t go on a slide, but she understands.)

Being a grandparent these days isn’t particularly easy, but it is rewarding in so many ways. I have never left her alone – not even for a minute – because I know anything can happen.

I don’t understand how other people, like parents who live with their can forget or purposely leave them in a closed car on a hot day.

Even with the windows down the heat inside your upholstered metal box on wheels will rise quickly on a hot, humid day.

You can park in the shade, but it’s still hot out and the temperatures can go up to 200 degrees in no time.

Currently, leaving a child 12 and under alone in a car is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to 1 year in jail and up to $2,000 fine.

Some lawmakers believe that is is not enough, and I can’t agree more, and it should be extended to include animals.

My first thought is – an eye for an eye – make the parent or caregiver sit inside the hot car for the same length of time their child or pet had to endure the heat.

Threat of extended  jail time and higher penalties or making it a felony crime may be enough to snap people out of it.

If you are a caregiver or busy parent and your child (or dog) is not the first thing on your mind when you park your car, try doing something simple that will force you to remember.

A) Purchase an inexpensive thermometer and keep it inside your car, on the dash or on the back seat. Don’t think that because it’s ONLY 80 degrees outside that everything will be fine “for a minute.” By the time you get back to your car the temperature inside could be up to 120 degrees or more.

 

B) Ladies, if you have a purse or diaper bag and you are headed to the store or bank, etc., put your wallet inside the bag and leave it on the back seat next to your child’s seat. You must have your wallet, so when yo go to retrieve it, surprise! you will see the child and remember to take him or her out of the car. Dads, if you have a briefcase or folder that you are taking to your office… do the same thing — back seat placement will make it impossible for you to forget your child.

C) JUST SAY NO. Pre-teen kids can be difficult to deal with sometimes and to them going to the store with their mom can be so uncool. They may insist on staying in the car — as was the case in Bristol on Wednesday. If your child gives you a hard time about going with you, just say NO. You are the parent, he or she is the child. “NO, you are NOT staying in the car.”

Another tough call is pets, your dog will give you the puppy dog eyes and plead with you to take him or her with you. Again, just say no!. Leave your pet home, he or she will get over it the second you walk into the house upon your return. If you don’t have air conditioning leave your pet in a safe, comfortable place with plenty of water make sure he or she will be okay alone. If he or she is in a crate make sure it’s not lined with blankets that could make your pet hot. Try to make your trip short so he or she is not alone in a small space for too long.

If you have a fan on to circulate the air, make sure it’s plugged into an outlet that will shut off if it overheats. This will keep your pet safe while he or she is alone. Power strips must not be overloaded and should be placed away from anything flammable.

One parent leaving a child in a hot car is ridiculous — Six “alone in the car” incidents in 2 weeks is unforgivable.