No one wants to see a kid die.
Also no one should be against efforts to put preventative measures in place that could reduce the likelihood of a child dying.
Still you’ve got to wonder whether efforts to reduce the deaths of children left locked in cars are chasing the solution that is the most effective at reducing the death of children.
There were 56 deaths of children who were left in hot cars last year. Another 26 have died so far this year. The gruesome statistics are in addition to those that survive and have to deal with brain damage and other issues.
Various organizations along with Congress are pushing for the mandatory installation of rear-seat monitoring for all new vehicles sold in the United States. Some auto makers already make them available as optional equipment.
No one is saying we shouldn’t deploy technology to potentially save 56 kids’ lives annually but why not focus on saving significantly more children by mandating vehicles with technology aimed at stopping a bigger slaughter?
On any given day the National Safety Council reports 9 people are killed and 1,000 or more are injured in collisions where a least one driver was distracted. Statistics compiled by several states place the top culprits among such collisions as drivers either texting, emailing or on the phone.
Why not mandate manufacturers come up with technology that at least jams the ability to send or receive text or email communications within the confines of the car when the engine is running? Text and voice are different. It isn’t a major leap of possibility for technology to accomplish such a goal.
Saving the lives of one to three kids a day — plus many more adults — would seem to be more of an urgent concern.
It’s been estimated at any given time some 660,000 people in this country are driving and making either a phone call or texting at the same time.
Not to take away from the horrors of a child literally being cooked to death but the real national emergency are people piloting weapons tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds while texting or using a cellphone.
That said it would be easier to get the Senate to appoint Donald Trump to serve as ambassador to the United Nations at the end of his presidency than to get Congress to vote on a measure to mandate technology rendering cellphone useless that are operated by a person in a driver’s seat for the purpose of texting and emailing as a vehicle is barreling down a road at 55 mph. The behavior is rampant and is becoming ingrained. It needs to be targeted with technology and the authority of the government for the common good.
Again, nothing against mandating tech for rear seat alert systems so that people who likely never leave their cellphones in the car won’t forget about the kid in the backseat. But what is really needed is for everyone to stop being so self-absorbed and self-centered.
It is something you can’t legislate but peer and/or community pressure would go a long way. There is less and less pressure with each passing year in our society to conform to any standard of behavior when interacting with people or conducting one’s self outside the confines of our homes. We see examples every day. We exceed the speed limit and will start to drop down to the top allowable speed the second we see a police vehicle. But as soon as it is out of sight we push the pedal back down.
That is not conforming to the norm. That is simply avoiding a ticket. There is no guilt in speeding and hardly any of us feel any remorse or shame when the people we pass by during the legal speed limit know we are speeding.
You do not sacrifice individuality by confirming to laws and conduct standards that make it possible for 327 million people to live in the same country.
Some experts don’t see children left to die in hot cars or the wanton amount of texting and driving as a breakdown in standards. Instead they see it as flaws in basic memory brought on by people being overwhelmed.
They don’t add that what is “overwhelming” a lot of people today is pure gibberish. Study after study as well as personal testimonies paints a world where a growing number are literally slaves to social media and instant communication.
Yet we attribute hot car deaths to essentially the stress of the drivers involved and don’t zero in on the contributing factors.
Just like those that steer a 4,000 pound car into another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist while they were texting, people who leave kids in hot cars are distracted.
It would be far better if we as a society worked at not being distracted every minute of our working day as it would save a heck of a lot more lives including those kids who die while left in hot cars.
Whether the technology eventually succeeds at greatly reducing hot car deaths if all vehicles on the road eventually are equipped with rear seat detection systems is far from a given.
Earlier this month a South Carolina woman intentionally left her disabled 13-year-old daughter in a hot car for five hours. The girl died.
A week later the woman’s 30-year-old daughter left her 7-year-old and 6-month-old in a car with the engine running while she shopped at a Walmart. The car’s air conditioning wasn’t working. Police arrested the 30-year-old for unlawful conduct toward a child.
All the technology in the world will not alter the behavior of parents like that. Still the effort is worth it if it helps save a life.
Leaving a child locked in a hot car is no more an accident than ramming into another vehicle while driving and texting.
Accidents are events that happen by chance without apparent or deliberate cause.
Leaving a child locked in a car didn’t happen by chance. People place priorities on things that they focus their attention on.
That is extremely clear with both potentially deadly consequences of operating a vehicle when you make a conscious decision to allow yourself to be distracted. It is not a requirement to text and drive. It is a choice.
At the same time you don’t read any stories where someone takes a child to a car but doesn’t let them in and then takes off and leaves them for 5 hours.
Once they got behind the wheel they decided to focus their attention elsewhere.
That is why you shouldn’t be surprised one day that someone that left a child to die in a car sues the manufacturer claiming the back seat detection system wasn’t working or it wasn’t enough.
The best solution is for people to focus behind the wheel and not go into social butterfly mode, play air guitar, or think about everything else.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.