Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Precious Cargo

I can picture your family, you know. I see a loving parent (or hopefully two!), a beautiful baby, and a happy scene. I think nothing compares with the joy of bringing your new baby home for the very first time. I just know that you carefully placed baby into the safety seat, and that you adjusted all the straps and buckles just as carefully as could be to make sure that your precious little one arrived home safely.

But I also know that once baby has been a part of your life for a little bit, several things can go wrong with this happy scene. Babies, for lots of reasons, don't always get buckled safely and snuggly into their carseats. And the newspapers know it, too. I read articles almost daily about a tragedy or near tragedy where a small child was involved in an accident, and injuries could have been minimized or prevented all together if the baby had been properly restrained.

Even the most careful parents have been known to take a chance "just this once" with the baby. Maybe there's only one carseat, and the spouse accidentally took it to work. Or maybe the babysitter needed to run to the store but didn't have a carseat to use. Maybe someone was in just a little bit too much of a hurry. Whatever the reason, baby did not get buckled in because someone thought it would be all right "Just this once." And it wasn't all right. There was an accident, and the baby was injured or even killed. I can't imagine the guilt I would feel if my little one was injured or killed because of my own negligence. It must be absolutely horrible.

Please, buckle up the baby. Do it each and every time you put the child into a car. Any car. If you need to get a spare carseat, then do it. Your child's life is simply not worth the risk. Help is available if your family budget won't allow you to get what you need-check with the local hospital, police agency, or child welfare office. Someone, somewhere will help you to get what you need.

I was born in the late 1950's, and can remember cars that didn't have seatbelts, let alone car seats. As a parent, I can't even imagine taking my baby places under those circumstances. Usually, an adult would hold the child on his or her lap for the ride. If Mom had to drive alone, baby was laid beside her on the front seat. You heard me right-LAID loose on the front seat with Mom's hand on it so it wouldn't roll off. Yes, I've seen the video clips that show how easily babies are ripped from the grip of an adult even in low speed accidents. Sometimes I'm amazed that we all survived infancy. Many of the new safety precautions strike me as a bit silly, since generations survived before they were invented, but not carseats.

There is no amount of inconvenience or hurry that should make you not buckle up your child. There is no excuse. If the carseat is not available for some reason, then don't go. Don't risk your precious cargo even one time, not even for a moment. Babies are irreplaceable. Your peace of mind is vital. Please don't put your little one at risk, and don't put yourself at risk of a lifelong guilt trip. Always buckle up your child.

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