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Let’s play a word-association game. Take a common word, a concept. Now define that concept in just two words. You have 30 seconds.

First concept: “Parenthood.” Hmmm …. got it. “Raising children.” Easy enough.

No, hang on a minute. You’re starting to think about it. What about feeding them, clothing them, watching them take their first few steps, teaching them to talk, tending to them when they’re sick. Not to mention that whole childbirth thing mothers go through. Then all the places kids need to go: day care, school, doctor visits, the dentist, sports practice, dance lessons, swimming lessons, driving them here, driving them there, and above all, keeping them safe the whole time.

And no, you can’t hang on a minute. Remember the rules: Two words, 30 seconds.

Two words just won’t do. And sometimes all the words in the world won’t do, when the time is up and the arbitrary 30-second rule has run out, when the unspeakable has happened, as it happened to a 27-year-old mother last week.

These sparse words from the police report described the accident:

“Traffic Fatality”

“Greensboro, NC (September 13, 2012) – At 5:15 p.m. on 9.13.2012—Police responded to 1417 Ardmore Drive reference a vehicle crash.

Officers discovered (the 27-year-old mother) had left her 1999 Ford Escort running with her children inside the vehicle.

The vehicle was set in motion resulting in the victim being pinned between the Ford Escort and another parked vehicle. She was transported to the hospital where she died from her injuries. The children were not injured. The investigation is continuing by the Crash Reconstruction Unit of the Greensboro Police Department.”

A bare-bones description – not a definition, not an explanation, not a reason why.

Image / Egerton Law

The buttons, knobs and dials of a car console are a magnetic attraction for curious children. The gear-shift lever can be a deadly one.

Oh, there are many rules for parents to follow. Here is one good website,, that has especially extensive information, covering not just preventing an unattended vehicle from getting in motion, but backovers, heatstroke, the dangers of power windows, and kids getting tangled in seat belts or trapped in the trunk.

It pays to read these websites, most assuredly, because common sense is not quite as common as we like to think it is. Could a belted-in two-year-old extricate himself from a safety seat, clamber his way to the front and somehow get a car into gear? Somehow override the BTSI? What’s BTSI? (That’s Brake Transmission Safety Interlock; keeps a transmission from leaving park with pressure on the brake.) All cars manufactured for sale after Sept. 1, 2010 must have BTSI. I’m guessing a 1999 Escort would not.

Another website,, covers the topics I mentioned before, and also lists numerous articles and videos from a wide variety of sources on children and car safety. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there’s an app for that.

You can even find a list of dumb reasons parents step away from cars “just for a second,” and how leaving kids even for a moment “is lazy parenting at its worst.”

As I scanned the Web, I didn’t come across any “To-Do” lists of all the things parents have on their plate from the time the alarm goes off in the morning to when they tuck their children in at night. I didn’t discover any analyses of how tired a mom or dad might get between breakfast and bedtime.

Don’t get the wrong impression – this is not an “oops” situation. It’s hard, important work keeping children safe, and even the smallest lapse in judgment can result in tragedy. A couple of words do come to mind: Eternal vigilance.

To my knowledge no follow-up reports of this accident have been released, no further details. All I can surmise is that this mother was still close enough to her car when it started rolling that she probably tried to get back in and stop it. How long did it take for this accident to unfold – 30 seconds? Maybe she did stop the accident from being even more terrible.

Two final words for that: Ultimate sacrifice.

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