Monday, December 8, 2008

What would you do?

Okay, internet friends and random visitors alike, I have a situation to pose to you:

There is a family that lives up the road from us. Their oldest child is in one of the other kindergarten classes at Kiddo's school. He is supposed to ride Kiddo's bus, but he hates the bus (he freaked the heck out at the start of the year) so he gets driven to and from school instead. Sometimes one of his grandparents drive him, but most of the time it is his mom or dad.

When I am waiting up at the corner in the afternoon for Kiddo's bus, I often see Dad or Mom driving this little boy home. They even wave as they turn the corner and head up the street, so they're acknowledging that I've seen them drive past.

Here's the thing: the little boy is NEVER in a booster seat NOR is he even in the back seat of the vehicle (they have two, four-door cars). He is always sitting UNBELTED in the FRONT seat. Sometimes he's not even sitting - this afternoon, for example, as his dad skidded a bit around the turn the kid was standing up and leaning against the front dashboard. You know, where the airbag is - the airbag that has all the dire warnings about grave injury or death should a child be in the front seat...

Now, the law for New York state regarding children and seat belts/booster seats is as follows:
Every child under age 16 in the vehicle must use a safety restraint. If under age four, he or she must be properly secured in a federally-approved child safety seat that is attached to a vehicle by a safety belt or universal child restraint anchorage (LATCH) system. A child under age four who weighs more than 40 pounds may be restrained in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. A child of age 4, 5, or 6, must use a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or a child safety seat (The child and safety restraint system must meet the height and weight recommendations of the restraint manufacturer).

Exception: A child more than four feet nine inches tall or more than 100 pounds is allowed to use a seat belt that has both a lap belt and a shoulder harness. To use the seat belt, the child must be able to sit straight up against the vehicle's seat back with his or her knees bent comfortably over the edge of the seat. The lap belt should be placed low and tight across the upper thighs; the shoulder belt should rest tightly but comfortably across the child's chest and shoulder (collar bone) without touching the throat. If the seat belt does not fit properly, the child should use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.

Okay, so first of all, this kid is not taller than 4ft 9in, nor is he more than 100 pounds. He just turned five years old. Now, the law doesn't require that kids ride in back, but it is strongly recommended by both the DMV, police and the car manufacturers. In any event, the NYSDMV says

Air bags deploy (expand rapidly) from the steering wheel and/or dashboard, and, in some vehicles, from the side doors beneath or above the window. The force of an air bag deploying may injure those who sit too close to it. Make sure to sit with at least 10 inches between the center of your breastbone and the air bag cover. If you are the vehicle's driver, place your hands on the steering- wheel at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions to keep them out of the way of air bag deployment. For maximum protection, children under the age of 12 should sit in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Standing up and leaning on the dashboard sure as shootin' isn't sitting at least 10 inches away from the airbag cover. Heck, Hubby snipes at me when I put my feet up on the dash while he's driving (and it isn't because they're stinky - it is because he's afraid for what would happen if the airbag deployed while I was scrunched down in my seat with my feet on the cover). I highly doubt that the neighbors are just letting their son hop out of the booster seat in back and climb in the front just before they turn onto our street, either - it seems like they let him ride that way whenever. (By the way, on those days when one of his grandparents is driving him, he is always secured in back in a booster seat.) Argh. I hate thinking of what could happen to this kid if the airbag deploys, or if they stop short as he is unrestrained - that windshield doesn't look too soft and safe to hurtle through......

So, what would you do if you were the one who saw this kid riding, unbelted, in the front seat day after day? (By the way, the school is just under three miles away from our street, so this isn't like a "just up to the corner" kind of a drive.) I am not entirely comfortable with saying something face to face to either of the parents; I don't really know them very well at all (I don't even know their name, just which house they live in up the street from us) and on the few occasions when they did try to have him ride the bus at the beginning of the year, they weren't particularly sociable or chatty. (Yes, of course I tried to chat while we stood there - this is me, the one who talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and besides it seemed weird to me not to chat as we both waited on the corner.) Should I cowboy up and say something to them? Leave a note in their mailbox - signed? An anonymous note? Call the cops anonymously and report them? Mind my own beeswax and just keep my mouth shut? It just seems SO unsafe, so very dangerous to let this little boy ride unrestrained up front like that.

Anyone with any opinion on the situation, please weigh in - I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, I should do.

22 comments:

georgie said...

contact the police ...
I am a lot like you...I think if it were me I would anon to the police station and let them know they may be able to do a patrol and catch the parents...

It is so unsafe for this poor child Thank goodness the grandparents have enough sense to secure the child safely

momto1 said...

I would honestly call the non-emergency police number and report what you see on a regular basis. Perhaps they will feel inclined to send an officer out to ticket the parent for improper restraint.

I have done this on occasion, even when passing/following a complete stranger on a "I just saw....". Those parents are endagering the life of their child...at least twice I've had officers arrive on the scene, and pull over said vehicle. It makes me feel like that little ones guardian angel--at least for 10 seconds.

When it comes to a child who can't and isn't expected to make his/her own decisions and an adult is making very poor ones, I have no problems causing a fuss.

Michele said...

Oh, my. Well, I am a credentialed teacher and am therefore a court mandated reporter of child abuse. If I witnessed this, I would have to call child services as I personally feel this is abuse/neglect. My credential would be at risk if I did not make that call. Not a big call to make. It is made anonymously. Noone will come racing in the night to take their kid away. But, it is a cold dousing of water they need. It is about the child and not the adult's comfort. But, boy, do I feel your discomfort. Man! I feel uncomfortable just typing this!

Make the call and say, I may be wrong, but I would rather err on the side of caution. Afterall, most car accidents happen within a 5 mile radius of home. Oh, boy.

Debbie said...

I have a good friend who is a police officer and he loves to pull these kind of people over. I'd call them in a heartbeat. You may save that kid's life.

Lorrie Veasey said...

the worst thing you could do is.....nothing. To do nothing at all would be horrible.

Personally, I'd call CS because this type of parent may have additional issues, and I'd rathe err on the side of caution and make sure the child is well cared for at home. I was a former K teacher, and this is an easy 7 anonymous call to make.

Momof3 said...

I would call the police and give them the info on what times they are driving to and from school with this child unbuckled.

RMF said...

You could also mention it to the school, and ask them for advice. Maybe someone at the school could speak to the parents before any more severe action needs to be taken.

Jennifer said...

I was thinking maybe tell the kindergarten teacher. Say that you want to remain anon. but maybe the teacher can say something like "It has come to our attention..."

I get SO mad when I see people doing that kind of thing--why would they possibly want to take such a risk??

Vickie said...

You know that is a toughie? But, since I am not good with confrontation, I would call the police and tell them the time and place and have a shocked look on my face when it happens. It is a law in Michigan as well.

I am surprised that the grandparents have seats. Usually, the grandparents are the laisez-faire with the kids. You know, "In our day, we didn't have all these contraptions." attitude.

nikkicrumpet said...

I agree...I'd contact the police. That way they won't be mad at you...but the kid will be safe. It's all about the kid!

Blogging Mama said...

I don't know what to tell you. I also hate that people do this. What especially bothers me is the infant seat (or any carseat) in the front which nearly everyone here does...

Yesterday I did leave a note for a blogger in Japan (who I've been reading for awhile) that I didn't know she could turn her 20 lb 5 month around in his carseat, the rules must be different in Japan. I'm sure they aren't but as a new mom maybe she didn't know about the 20lbs and at least one year rule. I debated saying anything cause even though I don't know her in person I don't want to be rude but I also didn't want her baby to get hurt.

So I do understand where you are coming from with this but I don't know what I'd do about it. Whatever I did I don't think I could let them know it was me who did it.

Good luck!

Abounader Photography said...

I'm afraid I wouldn't do anything unless you know them really well.

Barbara DeBose said...

You should contact Social Services. My MIL used to work for SRS and she said that's where you call to report things like this. You care enought about this child to not see him get injured, so you should call.

Jamie said...

I would say something to the proper authorities....it would be horrible for something really bad to happen to the little guy because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt or in a booster seat.

My name is Andy. said...

I would get their licence # and contact the police.

Good luck!

Ronnica said...

I wouldn't leave a note anonymously...if I were to say something to them, it would be face to face. However, I'd probably rather report it to the police and let them determine how they'll handle it.

wheelsonthebus said...

call the cops. this is not a case of minding your own business. it involves a child's safety. you'd never forgive yourself if something happened.

WheresMyAngels said...

Nothing, cause no one is going to do anything about it. At least they wouldn't around here. Lets see, I have reported the children whom started a FIRE in their back yard with a gas can, all were under age 7. I reported the 18 month old walking down the street with no clothes and NO ONE with them. I reported the mother whom left her disabled 2 year olds alone at night. One would bite the other one during this time, leaving marks all over him. I reported the A##hole whom pulled out a gun infront of his kids and took off to Kill the kids mother's boyfriend (that was my ex by the way. Oh I could go on, nothing was ever done about any of this. Well my ex did finally get into trouble but the hotline chewed me out for calling over this. But later he got himself into more trouble.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Okay, this is my opinion: If you call the police they may or may not give a shit. They may tell you to handle it yourself. They may be too busy. They MIGHT go to the family but more likely they will call DFS. I would hate to be that family getting reported to DFS. While I know they deserve it, I think you would be better off to contact them directly.

I would NOT do anonymous. (Even you don't like anonymous comments, right?) I feel like if you talk to them and they get peeved, it's not like you're breaking up a great friendship or something, right? I would contact them, in person, immediately after you have seen it happen. Don't wait. Also, try to be accurate if you're going to recall times you've seen him out of a seatbelt (don't say "I see him a lot" or "all the time"... these are ambiguous terms.) Say, "once last week and once over the weekend and twice the week before" or "yesterday after school" or whatever.

Make sure they understand that you are concerned for the KID'S safety. That you considered calling the police but you didn't want to cause a problem for them, but your interest is his safety. And that you would really hate to call the police but you would rather do that than go to his funeral because of a terrible circumstance that could have been prevented.

That will be the hook. Trust me.

Good luck!

annie kelleher said...

to be perfectly honest, i wouldn't do anything. he's their kid... and while you may think i don't care that he's belted in, what i care more about is the idea that in a free society we should be encouraged to call the police to catch each other up doing some really petty things. yes, i understand the danger to the child - but he is THEIR charge. i'd stay out of it but then, i don't particularly like dealing with the police. perhaps a gentler way to do it would be to go to the principal of the school and explain the situation. this does not rise tothe level of abuse or neglect that the state has enough people to investigate each and every such instance and this is not what the police andthe social services system is meant ot deal with. however, the principal could speak to the parents privately, have a whole school parent meeting, or send home safety reminders. a child who is so willful as to demand to be driven to school every day when there is a perfectly accepbtale bus may be willful enough to demand he not wear a seatbelt. in that case, the parents need support, not censure. so i'd go to the principal and i would stay away from teh polic. that way, you can feel you've done something, but you have not gone to the police over something relatively petty. i know i want the cops in my town chasing murderers and armed robbers not spendng their time go ing after parents who just dont seem to know better. after all, i grew up riding around in cars without seatbelts as did everyone else i knew. it's not willful endangerment or abuse - its stupidity and carelessness.

Teresa said...

Okay, so i'm a little late to the party here, but here are my thoughts, nonetheless.
First, a true story -- i volunteer in a children's hospital. A few months ago, I was helping a family from the cancer center down to there car. (Family - Mom, infant (the cancer patient), and 2 year old sibling.) Mom had infant in a bucket carrier (not strapped in), which she just set on the center of the backseat, and the toddler had nothing at all, and was standing as Mom drove away. I tried repeatedly to help them, to offer to install the carseat, to help with seatbelts, etc. Mom just ignored me and drove off. I reported the incident to my supervisor, who informed me that the hospital has a team of Carseat Specialists, whose entire full time job is to educate parents about carseat safety, and help families get set up properly. So . . . come babies next chemo treatment (a week or so later), they were tagged in their file and the Specialists came to educate, and accompanied them to their car when leaving to enforce. Yay!
Next story: I'm not sure about your suburb, Heather, but I know in Brighton, the Police Dept has a special Carseat Safety unit -- they check careseat installations, give private lessons, and provide free carseats to families in need. They hooked me up with a brand new carseat for Malcolm's birth-brother!
The running theme to my stories . . . . many places (schools, hospitals, police departments) have Specialists. I would contact them. If your suburb doesn't have a Carseat team, I would call Brighton. I had the pleasure of interacting with their Specialist on 3 different occasions, and he was so far above-and-beyond that I think he might help you, even "out of district."
Good Luck. Let us know how it works out.

Eudea-Mamia said...

Oh gosh Heather - you've gotten a lot of great advice.

My gut reaction is to call the cops and ask for a patrol car to wait and watch. I live in a small enough town that I know they would give a carp about a kiddo not being buckled in, and sit in waiting.

Child protective services is a good thought as well. I'm with the other poster about this might just be the tip of the iceberg. I understand it's a free country, and blah blah blah about choice, but this CHILD doesn't get to choose if his parents are stupid or not. Same rediculous argument about it being a civil rights violation with government getting involved with parents smoking in a car with children inside.

The child doesn't have a choice or a voice.

I would make a call.

Good luck - let us know. Em

P.S. tell your hubby I have the smae phobia about feet on the dashboard! I can just picture the EMT trying to figure out how to get the airbag out of my booty.