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Tommy: A simple way to make sure children aren't forgotten in hot cars

Tommy Tucker, WWL First News
August 01, 2019 - 12:55 pm

I’m sure we’ve all seen movies where, for whatever reason, the lead character somehow attains this marvelous ability to see into the near future.  As a result they do what they can to prevent a disaster. Guess what? It’s not the stuff of celluloid. It happens every year at the start of summer, and it is preventable.

In April of this year, WWL anchor David Blake and I had a conversation on air about the coming heat and predicted, unfortunately and correctly, that there were children alive as we spoke who would not be alive at the end of the summer. The most recent case involves a father in New York who left twin one-year-olds in the back of his car and went to work for eight hours. It was only on his way home from work to pick them up from day care that he realized he hadn’t dropped them off. Tragically they were still in the back seat. Authorities say it didn’t take all that long for the children to die given the heat that rapidly built up in the car.

He was arrested and is facing charges. Upon his release he was met by an applauding crowd. While they may have been happy that he had been released, he certainly did nothing to deserve an ovation. Due to his negligence, carelessness or forgetfulness, two children are dead.

His wife, their mother, said she still thinks he’s a good father.

I don’t know whether he is or not. Here’s what I DO know. Years ago the justice side of me was all for severe punishment for people who could be so careless as to let something like this happen. Then the compassionate part of me took over, and I decided the parents had already suffered enough by living with the memory of what they had done.

I also thought that a parent would be terribly neglectful to forget about a child in the back seat of a car. When my baby/toddler was back there I was constantly talking, pointing things out and explaining how things work even though the message wasn’t understood. I just enjoyed talking to this fabulous little person. I still think there has to be some level of disengagement between parent and child for such a horrible thing to happen. And while we’re at it I think your children should definitely be more important than anything else. All of a sudden the pragmatic, not emotional, side of me kicked in.

The first priority has to be PROTECT THE CHILD. I would think we can all agree on that. Sleep deprivation, disengagement, distraction, neglect, forgetfulness, outright carelessness or something else can be causative factors. We can work on preventing those things but only after we PROTECT THE CHILD because that is, after all, the primary goal.

When I had my knee replaced the doctors and nurses resorted to a low tech but effective way to avoid a tragic mistake. I was asked numerous times what knee was to be replaced and my response was checked to see if it matched with the surgical orders. Then the doctor took a pen out of his pocket and wrote “this one” on my knee. Low tech but absolutely foolproof. I think that same philosophy can be applied to prevent kids from dying in the backseats of cars.

After conducting numerous interviews with experts and talking to parents, I think the most effective way to protect the kids is as low tech as taking off one shoe and putting it in the back seat with the child. You may forget a phone or your lunch but you damned sure will realize you’re missing a shoe and be reminded that a child is in the back seat. And before you say this couldn’t happen to you, remember what Amber Rollins, the Director of Kids and Cars told us. “The reason it keeps happening is parents keep thinking it could never happen to them.”

Be safe. Remember the top priority. PROTECT THE CHILDREN.

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