Saturday, April 19, 2008

As promised, parent drivers…where’s my soapbox?

For those of you who missed last week’s column, I told a gut-wrenching story of how I publicly humiliated myself in my daughter’s elementary school by being one of “those” moms who fusses and complains about everything. I was arm-waiving and whining about parents putting their kindergartners in the front seat of the car at an already chaotic school pick-up.
And as much as I’d like to take a few deep breaths and unwind from my semi-frenzied state, I just can’t. Not when it comes to something as important as keeping our kids safe.
Let me first tell you that I am not one of those overly protective parents that have outlet covers and foam padding all over my home. I have never installed a safety latch on a kitchen or bathroom cupboard, and don’t own those doorknob kid-proof contraptions because I can’t even operate them myself. I don’t even require my kids to wear bike helmets…oh, the humanity!
But not when it comes to carseat safety.
When I was kid, I remember riding in the back of my Grandfather’s truck, rolled up in a ball to see how hard we could smack the sides when he took a corner. Or I’d perch myself in the “top bunk” under the rear window of my dad’s car where I’d roast in the magnified sun. And I lived, right? So why the strap-‘em-down philosophy now?
I listen to the recommendations, follow the rules, and take all precautions for two simple reasons: 1) I can’t control what other drivers do and how they drive and 2) I would never be able to live with myself if something happened to one of my kids because I was being lazy.
And I really think it’s all about being lazy.
Let me tell you, I have three children, ages 6, 4, and an infant. My kids are blessed with a long, lean physique, meaning that they respectively weigh 44, 32, and 12 pounds – barely more than a sack of sugar. Because of their weights and ages and the type of vehicle I drive, I have three carseats SQUEEZED into the back seat. To reach the middle carseat, I have to turn around in the front seat and contort my body to fasten the buckles on the harness. Trust me, it’s not easy. And I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve never broken a sweat trying to get all three kids buckled in.
But to me, it’s worth it. I’m willing to work a little harder and even break a sweat to ensure that my kids are as safe as they can be in the car. So when I see people driving around with a young child strapped in the front seat, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder why these people aren’t going the extra mile.
Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe they just don’t know.
So for those who fall into the second catergory (lazy people, you’re on your own. I’ve said my piece.), here are the recommendations (not laws, mind you) for children riding in booster seats and front seats of vehicles according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov):
-Children should be 4 years old AND 40 pounds before moving to a booster seat.
-Children should be in booster seats until they are at least 8 years old, unless they are over 4’9”.
-Children ages 12 and younger should be secured by an age-appropriate restraint system in the rear seat of the vehicle. (This will reduce their risk of injury or death by 30%, whether the car has a passenger air bag or not!)
I should also mention that the first car accident I was in took place five houses down from my childhood neighborhood home. Accidents can happen anywhere, so you might want to rethink even short trips when you say to yourself, “nothing can happen, I’m just driving home from kindergarten pick-up.”
You never know when there will be a crazy lady, waiving her arms and publically humiliating herself behind the wheel of a three-carseat vehicle.

1 comments:

Kristin said...

:) We have our 43lb big girl in a carseat still -- we actually bought a bigger carseat to accomodate her.

The sunshine kids radian carseat -- 3 of them will fit with room to spare in my backseat (honda accord). No contortions required, even if there were a baby back there. As it is we have a 5.5 yr old, friend's 4.5 yr old and 2.5 yr old.

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