One of the most remarkable parenting fails I have witnessed over the years happened while I was working with local law enforcement. I was riding with a detective in an unmarked car when we pulled up behind a blue Nissan Ultima. There was nothing unusual to note about the car, aside from the fact that there was a human hand poking out from the trunk. Needless to say, the detective got on the speaker and instructed the car to pull over. The driver, a typical suburban mom, immediately hopped out and met us at her trunk where we found her 12-year-old son and his friend. Both were alive and laughing as if they had just won the ultimate game of hide-n-seek.
My initial thought was that both boys had climbed in without the mother’s knowledge. At least that’s what I was hoping. But to my utter dismay, she admitted that she knew the boys were in the trunk and didn’t see anything wrong with it. She explained that it wasn’t something she did all the time and that she only intended to make a short trip to Starbucks then back home. Interesting note…she didn’t actually pull over to the side of the road; instead, she pulled into the Starbucks’ drive-thru, because why should an act of child endangerment stop her from having her latte.
I share this story because it’s a great example of how a lack of information and sometimes common sense can pose a serious threat to the safety of children. A crucial component to being successful at parenting is to be informed. Knowledge can prevent problems from occurring and resolve issues before they become unmanageable or dangerous. I find that parents are generally aware that child safety laws exist but don’t always understand their legal responsibilities.
When it comes to child car safety, there’s more to it than just car seats and seat belts. There are national laws and state guidelines that dictate what you can and can’t do when it comes to kids and cars. Although these laws may vary state to state, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration highlights some fairly common laws across the country that you may not know exist.
Here are the top 5 laws you should make a mental note of:
- Passengers are not allowed to ride in the trunk of a vehicle regardless of age
- It is illegal to leave a child under the age of 7 in a car alone; they must be under the supervision of a person 14 years or older (these ages vary state to state)
- Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to ride in the bed of a truck
- Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using cell phones while driving (this includes texting and hands-free capabilities)
- Teens are limited to certain times that they can drive at night, depending on the age of your teen and the state where they live
Knowing these laws can help you to protect your kids but they can also protect you from fines or criminal punishment. One of the most important aspects of this story that not many people pick up on is the fact that there was an unrelated child in that mother’s care. She put another parent’s child at risk and broke that inherent trust that parents give one another. This raises the point of how important it is to educate your kids about the laws and the consequences of breaking them. Yes, it’s a shame your child would have to be the adult in that situation but a brief moment of awkwardness could save his or her life.
Staying informed and learning from other people’s mistakes can help to ease the stress and fear that comes with the territory of being a parent. Being the fun parent who gives into the insane request that kids often make can be a costly and risky parenting choice. You don’t want to be that parent.
For more information on child safety vehicle laws in your state visit: