Wednesday, September 05, 2007

vehicle worship

Have you heard of our society's latest trend in child endangering? This topic is one which seemed non-existent when I was growing up. Over the past few years, hundreds of children have died from overheating after being trapped inside vehicles. One of the most recent tragedies took place when a middle school administrator forgot about her 2 year old daughter left in the back seat. The county prosecutor decided not to file charges in that case, although historically, prosecution and resulting penalties have varied widely. Far be it from me to judge.

I have a theory. Above is a photo of my car, a tiny subcompact, nowadays considered ridiculously too small for anyone with kids. It would be virtually impossible for me to accidentally leave a human of any size in that car. First of all, even a baby would take up a sizable percentage of available space in the vehicle. A baby is more noticeable in a Mini Cooper than in a Hummer, just as a cork is more noticeable in a bathtub than in an ocean.

My car, of which I'm becoming increasingly more proud than ashamed, is old fashioned. (The Child remarked in all seriousness that I should have entered it in the local antique car show.) To open or close this car, one must actually stand beside it, facing its windows, and insert a key. The adult in charge of this car is not allowed to rush off, locking it from afar to the fanfare of bells and whistles. My child sits behind me in my car, and if I had ever tried to lock it with him inside, he would have been blatantly visible to me as I stood there fussing with my old fashioned lock and key.

As I read the story of the recent tragedy, I found myself wondering what type of vehicle the grieving mother had been driving. How massive must her machine have been to hide her child?! I don't blame her- she most likely drives what society drives, and I've heard that we're choosing behemoths again, now that gas prices have slipped a bit.

Recently another type of vehicular tragedy took place in my own neighborhood. A woman was backing her enormous SUV out of a parking space after her child's pre-school class. The vehicle sits so high off the road that she did not see the three year old boy behind her, even though she checked her rear-view mirror. Her vehicle hit and killed the little boy.

Again, my vehicle, being very low to the ground, does provide better visibility in such situations. Even a toddler could be visible behind my car. (I'm not cocky though- I always park in such a way that I can drive forward out of my parking space, not having to back out.)

I think that our gas-guzzling habits are hurting us in more ways than we are addressing. I can't change the world, but I can express my opinion and do my part to defy vehicle worship.