190621 school bus
Just last week, a six-year-old boy who fell asleep in a bus, died after being forgotten in the vehicle for several hours. Image Credit: GN archives

Though it seems inconceivable that caretakers of children can suffer from a lapse of memory so acute that they actually leave the young ones behind in cars and buses, the recurring nature of such tragedies in the UAE compels you to seek substance in this sense of disbelief.

Just last week, in yet another shocking incident, a six-year-old boy who fell asleep in a bus, died after being forgotten in the vehicle for several hours as the driver, oblivious to the child’s presence, locked the bus and left.

The name of Nizaha Ala, a four-year-old, who died after being left locked inside her school bus in Abu Dhabi, is still seared on the collective memory of the UAE.

Other children have died while locked inside their family cars or accidentally trapping themselves in it while their parents’ attention was elsewhere. Last year, Dubai Police rescued at least 69 children trapped inside vehicles. In 2017, it had responded to 76 such cases. All this begs the question of how to combat the scourge of inattentiveness. As a social challenge, this is perhaps one of the most vexing issues confronting the UAE society.

More on the issue

Fortunately, the exacting nature of the responsibility of the school management minimises, and even eliminates in a majority of cases, the possibilities of such accidents though in the wake of Nizaha Ala’s death, the court ruled the closure of the Abu Dhabi school as it had hired the services of a transportation company that was not licensed to ferry students, and hence did not have on board the requisite safety checks.

The more troubling issue, however, is of inattentiveness. Do parents really need to be cautioned against leaving their children behind in cars — especially in summer where the consequences can be particularly devastating? The repetitive nature of lapses seems to suggest that indeed they do.

Though there is a deterrent for irresponsible parents whose children are rescued from cars — they need to sign a document in a police station affirming they will not repeat the offence — and there are laws to punish extreme forms of negligence, the only solution to this problem is the absolute, unwavering, round-the clock attention of parents to their child’s well-being. It is either this or a lifetime of guilt over an irreversible loss that could have been entirely prevented.

There is no choice. And that is the uncompromising truth every parent must face up to.