Sherry-Go-Round: Preventing future tragedies
by Sherry Kughn
Special to The Star
Aug 20, 2013 | 2201 views |  0 comments | 79 79 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This summer, a Birmingham mother and a mother from McClellan changed their daily schedules with dire results. Two babies are now deceased from heat-related illnesses after being left in hot cars. How can future tragedies like this be prevented?

Concerned, I looked on the Internet to see if there was an alarm that would allow mothers (or any family member) to remember that a child has been left in a car. Actually, there are several. One is a pad that fits beneath a baby, another is a bracelet a baby wears, a third is a halo of some sort, and there are others.

However, in an informative article written a year ago by CBS News reporter Ryan Gaslow, he described how all devices on the market have been tested and declared unreliable by a leading medical center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He states the following finding: the currently available devices give mothers a false sense of security.

May I charge inventors? We must think of something that is reliable, and we should make it mandatory.

The article also stated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsors a campaign called “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.” It urges mothers to get into the habit to look in the car seat each and every time they leave their cars. This is good advice for all of us who transport children.

Perhaps there are low-tech ways that mothers can develop to avoid leaving a child behind. One suggestion is to lay a purse, a cell phone, a briefcase, or other item necessary for the workday in the backseat with the child. That way, the mother would see the baby when retrieving the item.

I thought of another. Mothers could buy a colored ribbon and tie it onto the baby’s car-seat handle. When they strap a baby in, tie the ribbon on their arm until they remove the baby. Then, tie it back onto the car-seat handle when the baby is removed. Whatever it takes, mothers need to realize that the law that required them to protect their children by placing them in the back seat of a vehicle has a potentially fatal consequence.

The human side of what happened locally is that a well-respected mother made an inadvertent, yet tragic, mistake and might be prosecuted. I hope officials who are in control of the charges against her realize that there is not a parent among us who has not had an “incident.” Twice, I allowed a child to get away from me in a crowd. Another time, I was standing over a grandbaby who wanted to crawl up a staircase. He turned to the right suddenly, slipped through a missing rail, and fell four feet to the floor. My oldest once choked on a piece of dry cornbread I left on a low table. These were panic moments for me, life-threatening moments for the children. Had their outcome been death, my sentence would have been my guilt and loss. The McClellan mother and her family need time to grieve and to move on without adding further tragedy to their lives.

Children left in cars is no small issue. San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences records how many children die each year from heatstroke after being left in a car. As of Aug. 7, there were 24. Thirty-three children died in 2012, and the department said 585 children have died since 1998. That is an average of 37 deaths each year when one is too many.

Good can come out of bad, and the heightened awareness that these recent deaths has created might prevent another child from being the victim of a tragic accident.

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Sherry-Go-Round: Preventing future tragedies by Sherry Kughn
Special to The Star

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