Societal, systemic changes needed to protect children in cars, says Lee Lam Thye

KUALA LUMPUR: The deaths of children accidentally left in vehicles should be addressed through systemic, technological and societal changes that protect children and support parents, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

The Alliance for a Safe Community chairman said there has been an outpouring of grief following the death of a toddler left in a car in Ara Damansara on Nov 9.

ALSO READ: Toddler dies after being left in vehicle for over seven hours

"The scenario is distressingly familiar: a hurried parent, caught in the whirlwind of daily tasks and professional obligations, makes a fatal oversight," he said in a statement on Sunday (Nov 12).

Lee said such incidents were a momentary lapse with irreversible consequences, adding that they highlight the dire need for work-life balance and the implementation of initiatives to protect our most vulnerable.

"At the heart of these tragedies lies the stark reality that the pressures of the workplace are encroaching more and more upon our personal lives," said Lee.

"The mother, preoccupied with online business matters represents a societal segment struggling to juggle professional duties with the demands of parenthood. This balancing act is not sustainable, and as seen, it can lead to calamitous outcomes" he added.

Both systemic change and personal vigilance are needed to prevent such incidents, Lee said.

"Firstly, employers must recognise the intense strain placed on working parents and offer supportive measures.

"Flexible working hours, remote work options and parental leave policies are not luxuries—they are necessities that can provide parents with the means to manage caregiving responsibilities adequately," he added.

The integration of technology could serve as a safety net, he said.

"Simple reminders set on smartphones or more sophisticated alert systems integrated into vehicles, could act as critical prompts to ensure that children are not inadvertently left unattended," said Lee.

He added that public awareness campaigns are essential, saying that they should be aimed at educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children in cars, even for a short period.

"These campaigns could disseminate best practices, such as 'look before you lock' and keeping essential items like a purse or briefcase in the backseat as additional reminders to check for the child," he said.

Lee said beyond these immediate measures, there is a profound need for cultural shifts in our approach to work and family life.

He said that society at large must prioritise the well-being of employees and their families.

"Work should not impinge upon our ability to care for our loved ones. A culture that venerates overworking without regard for personal time is not only unsustainable but can also be deadly," said Lee.

He then added that policies that protect child welfare should be reviewed and strengthened, suggesting that could mandate the installation of rear-seat reminder systems in all new vehicles.

"In our community-centric society, we can also lean on the 'it takes a village' philosophy. Neighbours, educators and friends should be encouraged to look out for one another, offering support or assistance when they notice someone struggling," he said.

Personal accountability must be underscored as well, he said.

" In the digital age where distractions are rife, we must be resolute in our focus when it comes to childcare. This means setting aside digital devices during critical parenting moments to ensure that our full attention is on the children and their safety," said Lee.

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Child safety , Vehicles , Children , Cars , Deaths , Lee Lam Thye


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