When you drive, buckle kids up

In 2009, if you don’t keep another New Year’s resolution, keep this one: Make sure your kids wear seat belts when you drive. All of us have seen drivers with a kid on their lap, or a youngster snugged up next to them on a console. The drivers are so proud of those kids. So cute. And so dumb and dangerous on the driver’s part. It’s not only dumb — it’s illegal. By state law, children under the age of four must be restrained by seat belts or child restraint seats. It’s a shame that it sometimes takes a ticket and fine to remind someone to protect their own children. Percy Sledge was right: Sometimes loving eyes can never see. Parents and grandparents protect kids from lots of things, from diseases to traffic in the street to Internet predators. But in this case, it doesn’t matter if mom or dad has arms like Hulk Hogan, or granny benchpresses bulldozers before breakfast. A driver can’t protect a child by holding him or her in a serious crash. The physics of mass in motion are too strong. In a major crash, a child on a lap or console can be thrown around the inside of a vehicle. A youngster sitting on the driver’s lap can be mashed between the steering wheel or detonating airbag, and the driver being thrown forward. And no human being on earth is strong enough to stop that from happening. Ask the cop or deputy or Mississippi Highway Patrol officer or doctor of your choice this question: “What sort of injuries can a child sitting on my lap, or on the console, sustain if my vehicle is involved in a crash?” Also ask: “Am I strong enough to be able to restrain my child in a crash?” Of course, no one ever thinks they’re going to have a crash. Wrecks happen to someone else, right? Besides, it’s so plum pluperfect precious to have my l’il baby on my lap. If you’re one of those drivers who carts kids around unrestrained in your vehicle, talk to a friend who has survived a crash. Ask your friend if they had any idea they would be in the crash until it happened. Especially, ask your friend if they had the time, strength or presence of mind to protect a child from injury while the crash was happening. It doesn’t take a highdome to realize that if your friend crashed unexpectedly, so could you. Why take the risk? Isn’t life tough enough for youngsters? Why needlessly risk injury or worse to a youngster because of your thoughtlessness? Every time a driver pulls this thoughtless stunt — letting a child ride unrestrained — and arrives unharmed at his destination, it’s just another way of saying the law of odds is building up. Don’t let the law of odds unload on you, or worse, that kid you love. Don’t be the one who has to carry a burden of guilt around because a child suffered or died due to your thoughtlessness. If you can’t put your youngster in a seat belt or a child restraint chair when you get in your vehicle, perform a death-defying act: Don’t take them with you.

Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel