Could Baby's Car Seat Death Have Been Avoided?

In a tragic story out of North Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, 1-year-old Katrina Gunkel suffered severe head injuries that led to her death after a pick-up truck lost control and slammed into the minivan the baby was in with her mother and father.

The death has been named accidental, and no one was charged.

However, due to the circumstances of her death, I do think someone needed to be charged ... and I don't mean the driver of the pick-up, but her own parents.

After all, little Katrina was sitting on her dad's lap in the front passenger seat before she died.


The common argument is "The parents are suffering enough," but if we based all laws on emotional punishment, then Casey Anthony would be guilty since she didn't show signs of emotional trauma after the death of her own daughter, even if it wasn't her fault, right? Should we put parents who beat their babies in counseling, and then have their punishment based on some arbitrary "levels of suffering" to make them meet some deemed level? Her parents HAVE suffered, and will ... but they broke a law. It doesn't make sense.

What does make sense is that baby Katrina is dead because her parents broke a law designed to save her life, and made a decision that was so poor that it ultimately resulted in her death. Common sense would tell anyone that WOULD have happened in this situation. Why would we NOT charge them for breaking car seat laws, with being negligent in a way that resulted in their daughter's death? Sadly, we know that people only follow certain things when they know the ramifications (in this case, legal action) are more severe than they're willing to risk ... because apparently knowing that your toddler could die on impact with your windshield isn't enough.

I know in places like New York City, not using car seats in taxis is commonplace, but it's also idiotic and unsafe. Car seats are a huge pain to haul around. Even the car seat with wheels to make it instantly into a stroller could still suck to install in a cab all the time. We can't all be as cool as Matt Damon, who carried his daughter in her Britax car seat after taking her out of a vehicle in New York (ouch, my back!), but in places like that, subways are always an option.

It may take longer, be a pain in the butt, and incredibly inconvenient. But parenting has never, and will never be about convenience.

You can pull a car over if need be to care for a child, or you may need to let them cry until you're somewhere you can care for them. I just drove for three days straight to move my family halfway across the country, and my car never once moved unless my kids were both securely and properly in their seats -- and yes, my daughter DID cry, DID beg to get out a few times, but we just had to talk to her, try to entertain her, and get the car stopped and somewhere SAFE before we took her out. 

Because let's face it, if I break the law and pull my daughter out of her seat, and someone hits my car and she died, it's just as much my fault that my daughter died as the it is driver of the car who hit me. We all shunned the mom who breastfed while driving ... this really isn't different, except the risk became a reality.

That's what car seats and laws are about -- you can't stop that pick-up from slamming into your minivan, no matter how safely you drive. You control how likely your children are to survive a crash. That responsibility is yours. When you fail to follow the laws designed to save your child's life, yeah, you should be charged, or held responsible somehow. They'd have been charged if they'd merely been pulled over, right?

Do you think the parents should be charged?


Image via madaise/Flickr

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