Britney Isn’t the Only One

I can’t say I was surprised when I saw the photograph of Britney Spears behind the wheel of a car with her baby in her lap. Not because I think she’s bad mother, but because I see similar lapses in parental judgment every day.

Take last week, for instance. As I was proofreading Kathy Sena’s article about car seats and booster seats —”Are Your Little Ones Safe on the Road?” which you’ll find on page 33 of this issue — I looked out my office window and saw a man put a girl who appeared to be about 3 years old into the front passenger seat of his car and drive away. Neither one of them was properly restrained. Restrained? She wasn’t even sitting down.

It’s impossible to know what that man was thinking. Presumably, he was the girl’s father. Maybe they were just driving to the other side of the parking lot. Maybe he was in a hurry to get somewhere and didn’t see the harm, “Just this once.” Maybe he can’t afford a car seat. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I see this kind of thing all the time, and you probably do, too. Teenagers riding the backs of pick-up trucks; adults driving without seatbelts; drivers reading and talking on cell phones while they maneuver through high-speed traffic on I-40.

I know it’s not easy to get everything right. We make allowances, we make compromises, and sometimes we make mistakes. But mistakes with automobiles can have deadly consequences. Car seats, booster seats and seat belts are a bare minimum. They are the very least we should do to protect our loved ones and ourselves. On top of these basic safety precautions, we should add healthy portions of patience, attention, courtesy and common sense.

I’ve heard some parents say they drive more carefully when their children are in the car. That’s a good start, to be sure. But even when your children are playing safely at home, there are other children on the roads. Maybe it’s time we all starting using our most careful driving skills every day, every time, no matter who’s in the car. Because Britney isn’t the only parent who makes a questionable decision now and then. And if our more careful driving can save even one child’s life, it will be time and effort well spent.