Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
It Only Takes an Instant

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Recently, a friend wrote to say that she had spent another sleepless night mourning the loss of her 18-month-old granddaughter. I know my friend would sell her soul for one more glimpse of that innocent face or to hear one more peal of her toddler's belly laugh. Just a little over a year ago, this young child perished after she was backed over by a car. In an instant, a life full of promise was crushed under tons of steel, rubber and plastic. In that same instant a grandmother's worse nightmare was realized. The heart that pulsed with love for that little girl broke open and bled. It bleeds still, unabated.

Now my friend spends sleepless nights playing the 'what if' game. What if someone had checked on the toddler's whereabouts once more? What if the toddler had turned right in her wanderings rather than left? What if she had lingered one more moment over a snack, or napped a little bit longer? What if? What if.

Since the year 2000, it is estimated that 1,150 children have perished in non-crash, non-traffic vehicle fatalities. The number is approximate because no federal or state agency is charged with tracking the grim statistics. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) believes that over 9000 children are treated in emergency rooms for injuries incurred in non-crash, non-traffic incidents each year. Experts caution that all of these numbers likely severely understate the real ones.

While back-overs represent the greatest percentage of such accidents (49.5%), children are also injured and die to due to hyperthermia from being left in cars that have become ovens in the heat of the sun (19.6%). The number of children involved in front-overs is 13.4% of the total. Vehicles set in motion make up 7.1% and power window strangulation makes up 2.1%

The average age of the victims is between 12 and 23 months.

Every mother's heart breaks when she reads those statistics.

There is federal legislation, currently in committee, that would require automakers to install safety devices in all vehicles sold in the United States. The devices would include a back-over warning system, power window stops and brake shift locks. Study the legislation. If you feel you can support it, communicate with your legislators.

What else can be done? My friend wants to remind all of us that one of the simplest steps we can take is the first step. We must check on young children one more time than we think is necessary. Who among us has not been amazed by how quickly a toddler can dart from a place of relative safety to one of extreme danger? It only takes an instant. We need to discipline ourselves to check, and then check again.

If you wish to know more about the status of the House and Senate bills, or to get more information about these sad tragedies, check the website www.kidsandcars.org. I used their resources for the statistics mentioned above.

Whether you are a mother, or have been loved by a mother, you know the power of the maternal bond. Take a moment today to honor it by taking action. Let each of us do what we can to assure that no child we love dies needlessly.


Marianne Mansfield is a writer come lately to the craft. After more than 30 years as a public educator in Michigan, she retired and turned her attention to writing. She writes weekly essays for a newspaper in southwest Michigan, and is working on a collection of short stories. She is occasionally overcome by a poem, but not often.


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I hope everyone who reads this article takes a moment to follow the link and send an e-mail to their representative. It literally takes less than two minutes -- and think of what we could gain. Thanks for writing this important piece!
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