Is it really worth it?
If there’s one thing I will never understand, it’s how grown men and women can consciously put their own children (or any other children) at risk. Like most of you, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, when it was considered OK to place your child on the armrest of your Olds 88 and drive around town. I was piled into the back end of my dad’s pickup many times as well as in the back end of my mother’s station wagon. Back then, it wasn’t considered a big deal. I, too, thought the armrest was the coolest seat ever!
In fact, I didn’t even wear a seat belt in the front seat of my mother’s car until I was nine. I remember that day very well. It was August 18, 1983. I was about the same age my daughter is now. I was worried about my family in SE Texas as Hurricane Alicia was coming ashore. I asked my mother many questions, and much like my own daughter does now, preceded each rapid-fire question with “Mom?” I remember my mom looked at me and said “What, Kate.. WHAT?”. That’s when we hit.
I ended up under the dashboard and knew I was hurt pretty badly. My mother leaned over to look at me and once I saw my own reflection in my mother’s glasses, panic struck. Passers by helped get me out of the car and into the grocery store that we were in front of. The car was totaled. I was luckier. Much luckier. The 25mph impact only managed to bust both my lips and peel the skin from my nose to my forehead. I also had a cut on my right knee that I still bear the scar from. I was taken by ambulance to a Memphis hospital where I was treated and released. The chocolate malt and popcorn for dinner helped, as well as the hours of TV-time.
Not many kids, however, are as lucky as I was. A friend of mine lost control of her vehicle three years ago and hit a tree. Her three month old daughter, who was in her car seat, was thrown (still in car seat) from the vehicle and suffered severe injuries. Her cousin, who was sitting next to her, died on impact.
In Virginia this past weekend, nine people died in fatal car accidents. Of those, five were not wearing seat belts. In the same state during the same timeframe, 250 tickets were issued for not restraining children. That’s two hundred fifty children whose lives were placed at risk by their own (most likely) families. That was only over four days. Imagine the number of children who were at risk for the whole month of November!
Just the other day, I drove from my house to McDonald’s, which is a distance of 1.8 miles. Within those nearly two miles, I saw THREE drivers with their children unbuckled. One child, who couldn’t have been but 3, was sitting in the front seat between her parents.
What causes such ignorance? Is it that the parents think that they’re safe drivers and thus, nothing will happen to them? Do they think that nothing will ever happen to their child? Mrs. Velasquez no longer thinks so. What about those who put other’s children at risk? I was in that position once when my own child was improperly transported, unrestrained.
My husband has NEVER in his fifteen years of driving been at fault in an accident (which is a much better record than his wife has, unfortunately). He was behind the wheel on July 14, 2003 when Mr Fuentes decided that the red light he had above him was of little importance. He veered left into the turn lane and continued straight through his read light, broadsiding our brand new Chevy Malibu. This, however, did not stop Mr. Fuentes. He hit the gas again and pushed us another ten feet before realizing that he couldn’t move after blowing one of his own tires and locking his car against ours. The impact threw my husband into the door jamb, causing a mild concussion. His wife, who saw the accident coming, move the seatbelt away from her slightly bulging belly. We were on our way back to work from my first appointment with my doctor after learning I was pregnant. We heard the heartbeat and got to see the baby. The next day I started bleeding.
Mr. Fuentes never showed up to his court date. Last I heard, there was a bench warrant out for his arrest. As for the bleeding on my end, it was contained. Kathryn will be 8 this coming February.
Is it that these people think that if they survived their own childhoods unrestrained, their kids can too? People drive more erratically and faster now then they did back when we were kids, people! Because of Mr. Fuentes, I now pause and STILL look both ways at green lights. I don’t have enough fingers to count how many accidents that’s saved me. I don’t care how many people honk behind me. Maybe if they were in my position that I was in 2003, they’d do the same.
In an accident, unrestrained babies become flying projectiles, capable of bouncing around a car like a rubber ball on speed. Just putting your child in the back seat is not enough. Just placing your newborn in the carseat without using the 5-point harness is not enough. By not restraining your child, you’re basically committing child endangerment. Period.
In the state of Arkansas, the law is as follows: Any child under fifteen in the state of Arkansas MUST be buckled up. Period. More so, any child under six and weighing less than sixty pounds must be in a safety seat. This does not mean that on your child’s sixth birthday, you can safely have them out of a car seat. My daughter, like I said, will be eight in a couple of months. She weighs 48 lbs. I don’t feel that she’s ready to be out of a booster seat.
In 2009, this became a primary offense, meaning a police officer can stop you for this reason only and needs no other reason to pull you over. Minimally, you will be issued a ticket, which certainly be worth more than the cost of a car seat.
A couple of other illegal things in regards to kids and driving:
In the State of Arkansas, it is illegal to smoke in a vehicle when ANY child under 15 is in the same vehicle. It doesn’t matter if it’s your own child, grandchild or a friend’s child. The law is the same, regardless. I personally know people who break this law consistently. Some say it takes away their own rights to smoke when they please. Really? What about the rights of the child who most likely doesn’t know the health statistics? Where do they fall into place? This is a primary offense in Arkansas, meaning police need not another reason to stop you before ticketing you for this offense. The fine, however, is small at approximately half the price for a carton of cigarettes.
On October 1, another law went into place, protecting children vs drivers. While in a school zone or construction zone, it is illegal to use your cell phone either for talking or texting. The fine for this could be up to $100, probably the cost of your cell phone that you were using. This, however, is a secondary offense, meaning that an officer would need another reason to stop you before ticketing you for this.
And so, for those of you I see almost daily while in line picking up my child from school, your fine could be over $250 for smoking and talking on the phone while waiting to pick up your own child… and though you only live a block or two away, you have your toddler in the back seat running back and forth. Shame on you.