The deaths of a three-year-old and one-and-a-half year old, after being left behind in a locked vehicle that burst into flames in Abu Dhabi last Wednesday, is shocking and saddening for what it says about the continuing state of parental ignorance that is leading to such tragedies year after year in the UAE.
The two young boys, brothers, were in a locked car when it caught fire and while the investigations may reveal the cause of the fire in the vehicle, what answers can we hope to find on why the parents decided to leave such young children behind in the car?
What compels parents to flout the fundamental rules of safety, again and again, when it comes to their children?
The notion that a parked car is a safe place to leave children has never been endorsed in any manner, anywhere, by anyone — not as a social norm, a parental practice or a civic habit.
The many pre-emptive measures in the form of awareness campaigns and education drives by the authorities, the media and advocates of child safety have played a big role in addressing this problem but more needs to be done
On the contrary, there have been enough cases brought to light in the UAE, and around the world, of children dying in locked vehicles, and one would hope that these would be horrifying enough to serve as grim warnings to parents.
But the tragedies continue to occur and the big question continues to confront society and the authorities: how to ensure that parents do not leave children behind in parked cars?
The answers are not easy.
To begin with, the UAE has zero tolerance for parental neglect, of any kind, at any time, under any circumstances, and it is a punishable offence.
Its Wudeema law on child rights is an all-encompassing, robust piece of legislation that covers every imaginable base. But parental responsibility is a human function and as such, highly unpredictable.
Each parent comes with their own complex blend of beliefs, values, individual attitude and awareness level of what is safe for their child and given the same set of circumstances, their evaluations of safety can differ, often with dire results.
And this is the most vexing challenge facing society.
The many pre-emptive measures in the form of awareness campaigns and education drives by the authorities, the media and advocates of child safety have played a big role in addressing this problem but more needs to be done.
Action by authorities that goes beyond a fine or a warning, such as a formal charge of negligence on the spot, is perhaps worth considering.