Don’t leave your child in a vehicle

Jasbir Kaur, a mother of three and blogger, on live TV about vehicular heatstroke. Its when you forget your child in a vehicle. It can happen to anyone. She shares her own experience.

| Jasbir Kaur | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 14 Oct 2015 Asia Samachar |
Blogger-mum Jasbir Kaur on live television discussing
Blogger-mum Jasbir Kaur appears live on Malaysian television to discuss vehicular heatstroke.

This would be my second time being on live television. The first was with my children and we tackled a necessary topic; ‘How to deal with competitive parents, when winning is not everything‘. It was interesting and fun because I had my kids along and there was no space left in my already-working-on-hyper-drive brain for being nervous. I aced the show, yes I did.

On 12 Oct 2015, I was at the same place with the same host but without my kids. Unlike my first interview, this time I was involved in the production of this segment. Personally met up with the producer, pitched him my idea and a week later, I saw my words being used by the host, my suggested video being played on their social media platform and me speaking live to a big audience from their studio.

I have been very vocal about vehicular heatstroke since 2013. It was a wake up call when I had a brush with it. From that day on, I knew I had to share about it because forgetting your child in a car can happen to anyone.

Although there are not many deaths reported due to vehicular heatstroke in Malaysia, I still feel this under recognised risk needs to be addressed. There isn’t much being discussed in local scenes. In fact the word vehicular heatstroke is foreign to many and only emerges on some Malaysian websites whenever a death related to a child being forgotten in a car.

Do we need to wait for the number of deaths to reach a certain number before the authorities take it seriously? Are we going to let the deaths of *four children (all under the age of five) be in vain? Aren’t we suppose to learn and do everything we can to prevent it? It is preventable. [*I wanted to compile and make comparison of how many times this has happened in Malaysia and based on the information I managed to gather from various online new reports, four child deaths (all under the age of five) due to vehicular heatstroke since 2012.]

In Australia, it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle and the specific law is available in 19 states in the United States. They have campaigns and local government community kit awareness. They have recognised its danger and have been taking preventive measures to make sure it does not happen to their citizen.

In Malaysia, of course we have a law but it is not specific to leaving a child unattended in a vehicle but it still applies and if found guilty, the offence under Section 33 of Child Act 2001 carries a maximum fine of RM5,000 or two years in jail or both (Bernama).

My point is, whether you are aware or not of such laws and incidence happening around the world, losing a child because of negligence is the worst kind of pain there is. Heck, losing a child is already painful, imagine losing it because you thought it was safer for him to stay in the car alone while you dashed out to run a quick errand. Even worse, because you forgot your child was in your car when you locked it and went away, for hours!

That was the highlight of the show: Recognise it, believe it is real and don’t be fooled into thinking it can never happen to you.

Once you recognise this problem and accept that it could happen to the best of parents or care takers then you can work out a coping mechanism to ensure it never happens. Taking care of children is a job and every job comes with its own sets of hazards.

I managed to share some essential tips on air but 15 minutes is so little for what I had to say. I shan’t waste my time repeating tips which are widely available from many websites like Kids and Cars that provide a lot of tips on children around automobiles or those I shared on Bella, NTV7. I would though appreciate if you could carry on reading. There are some clever tips that has worked for me and it might work for you too.

Rule number one, believe it can happen to you. Once we have established that here are some other tips to help you

Safety tips:

  • For toddlers, teach them to open car doors. I know this sounds dangerous but I have worked with my three year old. She is aware the dangers of opening a car door while it is moving. She knows she can only open it when the car stops and when I remove my seat belt. She is able to push back the car lock and kick the door open with her feet whilst being strapped in her car seat. She then screams for me. We have done this numerous times. It was tough in the beginning because SUV doors are heavy but she has been successfully opening her own door for close to a year now.
  • Be nosey. Call your spouse or whoever that is responsible of transporting your child to places she needs to be. Be sure you have all the necessary contact numbers.
  • Be like clockwork. Have extreme regularity. This way when your child is late or isn’t where she is supposed to be you can start being nosey and call everyone in your list.
  • Make sure you tell your child’s care taker, school, teachers or whoever that deals with your child to always bug you if your child does not show up.
  • Look before you enter your car, look before your lock. Just practise it.
  • Always keep your vehicle locked and get house guests to do the same. Young children are very curious and may end up locking themselves in it. Remember it takes as little as 10 minutes in a heated vehicle to cause major damage to a children

Sometimes we are tempted to leave our children in the car for a quick errand. I am always tempted because it is so much easier for me to walk into a gas station and pick up a loaf of bread compared to taking my kids who would always, always end up buying something. I can’t blame them because every no good snack is purposely placed right to their eye level. Who wouldn’t get enticed to buy it?

Doing so leaves a wide opportunity to car hijackers and kidnappers.

A couple of years back, I managed to get into a car with a baby and five year old. I had to because it was obstructing my (car) exit, my numerous frantic honking brought no adult to claim the car and I was in a rush. My intentions were to move the car so I can easily reverse out. After driving off in my car, it occurred to me I could have easily drove off with the other car and the children in it. How scary is that?

Just so that you know, the car was locked but the five year old unlocked it for me after I managed to convince him. So think and look before you lock

Jasbir Kaur, the author of this article, is also a mother of three trying to survive motherhood. She pens her thoughts at A cuppa for my thoughts.


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