People are still leaving kids in cars and we need to talk about it.
Please excuse my lecture below. This is not really a subject for lighthearted banter. But when people are leavings kids in cars, I can’t turn a blind eye.
A few days ago, I was off doing the groceries with my little one. It was a cool day, but in true Melbourne style, it had been warmer earlier and had also rained for a while. We returned to the car with the shopping, little one helps me load the bags into the car (mostly the empty bags and the bread!)
I noticed the car that was parked next to us had its window down a crack, and in the front seat was a handbag, phone, iPad and a few other things that probably shouldn’t be visible.
My first thought was: “Oh, someone is sitting in the car”, so I looked and saw a leg in the back seat. Then I looked again. That leg belonged to a child. At a guess, I would guess 18-months old, maybe 2? My heart dropped.
I looked around, but no one was nearby. I picked up my little one and dashed back into the store to alert the manager. Management were on it straight away, asking for the car owner to come to the register immediately. I returned to the car, followed by a worker. He glanced in the car and confirmed there was a child and went back inside.
It gets worse.
I thought to myself “He couldn’t have seen the child from where he was standing”. so I had another look. I discovered a second child in the car. This one was a rear-facing baby of less than a year old. Both children were asleep, or perhaps unconscious.
I was about to smash the windows as no one had come out. And then, someone did!
A parent dashed out, making no eye contact, jumped in and drove off without checking the back seat. Had the parent forgotten they were there? Had the parent been aware and was now too ashamed to confront anyone about it? I was physically shaking and the only thing preventing me from delivering an earful was that my little one was with me.
I had taken a photo of the car, so I took this information to the local police. They were not amused but also not shocked.
“We see this all the time, and it amazes us that people just don’t get it!” the officer told me.
Currently in Victoria, and in all other states that I am aware of, leaving a child unaccompanied in a car for any length of time is illegal. There are no ifs, no buts, no “the weather was not very hot, so it was okay” and certainly no “I just needed to grab some smokes”. Illegal is illegal.
We’ve all been there.
I have been in a similar situation to this parent. It’s been a long day, I am exhausted, as we have been at it all day and I have arrived to get the groceries done for the week. I turn around and my child has fallen asleep in the car. My solution? Drive home. Groceries can wait.
At the very least, its a mystery dinner night or even a takeaway night. If it were for something urgent, I would either drive around for a while so my child can get a rest, or wake my child and deal with a grumpy child in the supermarket for the staple items.
My $2 solution
I have since gone online and purchased a ‘window breaker’ keyring, which I will keep on my keys and hopefully never require it. I urge you all to do the same. They are around $2, delivered to your door. They look like flimsy plastic, but have a metal point that fires like a stapler into the glass, causing it to shatter. It is reusable over and over, so definitely worth it.
I have been assured by the local police that if a child is in the car unattended, their safety overrules wilful damage. A magistrate will not penalise me for saving a child’s life. I am glad that I have it, but I hope that I never have to use it.
My nifty trick.
Leave a bag or your phone in the back seat (double bonus, you cannot use the phone whilst driving!) so that you are forced to look in the back seat when leaving the car.
When my little one was rear-facing, I had a small pram toy that clipped on. I would clip it on my keys as I put her in the car, and when I got out of the car, my keys were ridiculous and too large for my pocket, reminding me that she was in the car. Find something that works for you, and do it.
Please do not leave kids in cars, even if the weather seems cool. If they are asleep, consider if you really need to go to that shop right there and then, or if it can wait. If it’s urgent, please wake the child.
Yes, it sucks to wake a child, but I can tell you, the alternative could be much worse.