It's taken me a while to calm down enough where I could write sensibly about this topic. I'm not going to apologize for the subject matter, either, because I feel so strongly about this subject.
I have always been one of those car seat people. I have always used a size and age-appropriate seat for all three of my children. Imagine my horror when I witnessed a child just over one year of age riding in her mother's lap as she departed church a couple of weeks ago.
I was leaving church and happened to be parked next to someone I only causally know. We say "Hi!" when we pass in the hallways and that's pretty much the extent of it. I've never even been introduced to her husband. She walked up to the passenger side of her car with her child on her hip. I smiled and nodded through my closed window because I was on the phone with King Waffle. I watched her open the front passenger door and sit down with the child on her lap in the front seat. I cut my eyes to the back seat and didn't even see a car seat in the vehicle. I stared in utter disbelief as her husband backed out of the parking spot and proceeded to drive away. All I could do was begin yelling at King Waffle, "Oh my word, they're driving away!!! They have their baby IN THE FRONT SEAT!!!" I had a short, fleeting thought that maybe they drove separately that day and that he was driving her around to her vehicle. The next thing I saw just floored me. They got out into four-lane traffic and still had the baby in the front seat. I can't even say for sure that I saw mom buckle her own seatbelt. I started towards home, completely stunned. Then, my conscience got the best of me and I made a u-turn. We attend a fairly large church and it requires that law enforcement direct traffic after church lets out. I pulled into the turn lane and motioned for the officer to come over to my car. He stepped over and I began to tell him what I'd just witnessed. He seemed concerned as well. I gave him their last name and a description of their car and the direction they'd headed. I later found out that the couple lives less than a quarter mile away from the church and that they were most likely already home by the time I reported them. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that the child was unsecured. The child is young enough that she needs to be in a rear-facing convertible car seat. I don't care how far you're traveling, a child needs to be in a car seat. They're made for a reason. They're made and designed to keep your child safe while traveling. It's likely that the car they were traveling in never exceeded 20 MPH that day. But, what if someone had rear-ended them? What if he'd had a momentary lapse in attention and he rear-ended someone else? In the first situation, it could cause the baby to hit the dash. It might not hurt an adult, but it could really hurt a baby. In the latter situation, it could cause the airbag to deploy and really cause some serious damage. I really want to confront this girl, but I want to do it in a loving way. I want her to never, ever, EVER have her child unsecured while riding in any vehicle. I don't want to be sitting in the service one Sunday morning and hear the preacher say, "We need to remember the ________ family. They were in a crash this week and their baby is in ICU with extensive injuries because she wasn't in a car seat."
Car seats are there for a reason. There are car seat laws for a reason. Both are to keep children safe. I still don't know how to approach her. I don't like confrontation and don't want to make things awkward for any future encounters. The bottom line is that I want her to keep her child safe. I don't want her to suffer the heartache of having to bury her precious daughter.
If I knew then what I know now, I would still have Noob in a rear-facing position even though she's three years old and 30 pounds. I would have rear-faced all of them until they were 35 pounds. Noob will stay in a five-point harness until she will not fit into one anymore. Poodle and Slick are in boosters; Slick still uses the high-back booster to help the seatbelt fit him as it should to offer him maximum protection.
If you're unsure about your state's laws, I urge you to check them out. You can find your state's laws at http://www.seatcheck.org/. If your child will fit in a child safety seat, PLEASE use one. Find a local agency who can install the seat for you where it will offer the most crash protection. There are people who are certified car seat technicians at most police and fire stations. If none are there, they will be able to direct you to a place that will help you find the correct seat and make sure it's safely and securely installed in your vehicle.
I hope the cops found their house that day and gave them some sort of warning or a ticket for not having that sweet baby in her car seat. I hope I'll never see it again.
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