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July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
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Looking Backwards, Literally!


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While the scenario seems very unlikely, it can and does happen – often with extremely tragic results. One only needs to read the local newspapers in cities and towns across Canada and the U.S. to become sickeningly aware of horrific stories of young children left behind in over heated cars or dangerously freezing ones.  It takes just a few short hours for a child to be seriously harmed in an unheated car in the winter or in a stifling one in the summer.

No one likes to think that they could be so careless and oblivious, but the fact is, you can do something right 1,000 times, and still make a deadly mistake.  The most meticulous and experienced surgeon, pilot or cook can mess up doing something that is pretty much second nature to him. Mistakes happen. People forget.

We need to get over the psychological hurdle of thinking, “There is no way this could happen to me, I would never forget that there is a baby in the car.”

This smugness can be deadly.

People buy lottery tickets even though they know the odds are one in perhaps 50 million that they will win the big jackpot. But since that nonetheless is a possibility, they buy a ticket.  They reason that if it can happen to some stranger, “it can happen to me too.”

We are all candidates for that “incredible long shot,” either good or horrific.

I knew a family who experienced both months apart:  The parents won a considerable amount of money in a state lottery, and lost a son in a freak car accident – somehow on a clear day while driving as usual, the son lost control of the car and hit a cement highway divider.

Now and then, there is a news item of a parent or guest backing out of a driveway and running over a toddler or young child – too short to be seen in the rearview mirror, who, unbeknownst to anyone has run out of the house or yard and is behind the moving vehicle.  Often marriages are destroyed by the ensuing grief and guilt from this preventable tragedy.

Before backing out, the driver or passenger should walk behind the car/truck and look up and down the sidewalk to see if there are any children, bicyclists or distracted adults approaching. (Distracted adults are those looking down or sideways instead of ahead of them as they text or talk on the phone.) If the path is clear, the driver should back up, and not waste time fiddling with the radio or other items.

This is especially important when backing out of a shopping mall.  Drivers must be extra vigilant as there are children darting away from their parents; there are adults who somehow think it’s okay to walk behind a parked car, even one with its motor and lights already on.

Assume that the pedestrian is not paying attention, and is not aware that you are backing up – or believes that he/she is safe because legally he/she has the right of way – as if that fact makes the person invulnerable to being hit and seriously damaged or killed.  No doubt many gravestones could truthfully have the epitaph, “…but I was in the right!”

I still vividly remember a “close call” decades ago when I slowly backed out of a driveway only to slam the brakes because a wizened bent old man walked nonchalantly past my car as I inched backwards.

For your own peace of mind remember to look behind you, whether you are a driver or a traveler utilizing private or public transportation.  A simple matter of turning your head – an investment of a few quick seconds – can spare you a lifetime of soul-shattering heartache.

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