Hey Carpool Mom, Your Vehicle is NOT a School Bus and Boys are NOT Cargo

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Hey Carpool Mom! Yeah, that’s right I am talking to you in your Yukon XL SUV.

Even though your vehicle is the size of a bus, it is not, in fact, a school bus. Therefore, stopping in the middle of a busy road to load a dozen boys into your vehicle is a really bad idea. You have no flashing stop sign jutting out on your driver’s side so there’s nothing to keep oncoming rush hour traffic from bowling into the boys who clearly have not been taught to look both ways before crossing the street. Or, perhaps your random stoppage in the middle of the road led them to believe that they too could put aside any regard for their personal safety in the rush to leave practice.

Way to role model Carpool Mom! Your friendly local trauma surgeon suggests that you consider pulling over at a safe location, with your signal on, and have the boys look both ways and use the cross walk before piling into your SUV. Unless of course, you are trying to cut down on the volume of boys you must drive around by encouraging brain injury, internal bleeding, long bone fractures and the like because, well, that is a strategy I suppose for the exasperated Carpool Mom.

How many seats does that behemoth have anyway? Does it come equipped with seat belts as most modern American vehicles do? Because by my count, even with that extra row of seats in your giant SUV, there were 2 too many boys in the passenger area of your car. So I guess it’s no surprise that not a single one of them made any effort to put on a seat belt after piling into your vehicle. I suppose that goes hand in hand with the street crossing technique you and your, ummm, safety consciousness have inspired in these boys. Oh, and I bet you are thinking I should not frown upon the two who piled into the cargo area for not putting on seat belts because, well, there are no seat belts for the cargo area.

So again, your friendly local trauma surgeon would like to gently remind you that seatbelts save lives. Oh, and it’s the law in our state to have those boys in restraints. Also, there’s a reason it’s a cargo area and not a passenger area: boys are NOT cargo. If your ginormous vehicle is still too small to handle the entire team, why don’t you consider asking another parent to help with the carpool? Surely there is someone else willing to share the Carpool Mom of the Year Title.

Because clearly your nonchalant wave back at me as you pulled away indicated that you relish that title. However, it seems to me that you are undeserving of the title since you are seemingly oblivious to the risk you have exposed these boys to with your carpooling technique. You were lucky that oncoming traffic stopped and let the boys barrel across the street just feet from a crosswalk without bothering to look both ways. And, if you stop short during the remainder of your journey, two boys will be flying out of the lift gate window. If you cut a turn too sharply through the center of town, bodies will be careening into each other and the metal cage you have tossed them in without proper restraints. Or, if you get rear-ended, at least one of them will strike his head on the back of your seat and you might be trading in your damaged SUV for a wheelchair van.

As your friendly local trauma surgeon who has held in her hands the brain matter of boys struck by automobiles while haphazardly crossing the street and has had to deliver the sad news that a boy will never walk again due to lack of being restrained in a vehicle that crashed, I hope that you, Carpool Mom, are prepared to live with your grief and the grief of the other parents, when your “I’m indestructible” attitude gets a harsh reality check.

Here's the SUV in question. Vehicle details have been anonymized to protect the guilty.

Here’s the SUV in question. Vehicle details have been anonymized to protect the guilty.

Each year, 1,600 motor vehicle passengers under age 15 die while nearly 130,000 more are injured in car crashes in the United States; and, nearly 300 more die while another 10,000 are injured when they are struck by vehicles. More than half of the children killed in car crashes are unrestrained. Proper restraint use reduces motor vehicle related morbidity and mortality by more than 50%. Furthermore, jaywalking and lack of attention to oncoming traffic are the culprit in well over 50% of adolescent pedestrian vs. auto deaths. Today, Carpool Mom, you encouraged those boys in your care–entrusted to you by their parents–to jaywalk and they most certainly did not look both ways before getting into your over-filled vehicle that you then put into motion without having the boys properly restrained.

So next time you are in charge of carpool, ask yourself, “how would the other parents feel if I had a party and served alcohol to their sons?” Because today you might as well have gotten those boys shit faced drunk with the example you set for them and the risk you exposed them to. I was not on call to accept incoming injured patients this afternoon, but I sure hope everyone got home safely.

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