Obnoxious, That’s Me

I can’t say that I mean to be obnoxious. Honestly, 99% of the time, I’m not really obnoxious. Yes I can be pedantic, but I try hard not to be obnoxious. However, the other day, I found myself torn between being obnoxious or not passing on relevant (to my mind) information. Obnoxious won out.

I pulled into the parking lot at Zizi’s day care center and saw a dad taking his infant daughter out of a car seat in the back of his extended cab pickup truck.

I immediately had flashbacks to almost a decade ago when my colleague, Flaura Winston, began doing her research on pediatric traffic injury. One of her first major papers was describing how dangerous it was for kids seated in the rear of compact extended cab pickup trucks during collisions. According to this study, children in the rear seat of compact extended-cab pickups are nearly five times as likely to be injured as children seated in the back seat of other vehicles.

So I’m thinking to myself, does this dad know this? Should I tell him or should I just shut the fuck up? If I come up to him out of the blue, then I’m some obnoxious as fuck parent getting all up in his Kool-aid. Yet, if I say nothing, then I feel guilty wondering whether he knows that his vehicle choice is very risky for his little daughter. And what if he gets into an accident? Would he rather have known about the risk? I’m sure that the person who sold him the truck didn’t share that bit of information. What to do, what to do?

In the end, I opted for obnoxious. I came up to him as we were both walking back to our cars upon exiting the center.

“Sir,” I began, “let me apologize in advance if anything I say seems really obnoxious because I don’t mean for it to be. But my name is Liana and I’m a pediatrician. I used to work at CHOP with one of the researchers who did most of the recent work on child traffic injury prevention. And what I remember really well was her study that showed how dangerous extended cab trucks were for kids, even when they were in car seats. They were much more likely to get hurt or killed than in similar crashes in other cars.”

By now he’s kinda looking at me like I’m a Jehovah’s Witness coming to spread the word.

“Well I need this truck for work,” he explained.

“Absolutely,” I nodded, trying so hard not to appear to be a lunatic. “I wasn’t telling you this to make you go out and sell your truck. No, no no. I just didn’t know if you knew about the higher risk and I thought it might be good for you to just have the information. When I was in practice, I always believed in giving parents information so that they could make the best decisions for their families. That’s all I wanted to do here. Again, I’m sorry if I seemed rude or obnoxious. Have a good day.”

He watched me walk away with a weird look on his face. It wasn’t anger, but it certainly wasn’t happiness that I stopped to share that little tidbit of information with him either. I drove away feeling alternately like I hadn’t done anything wrong and like I was the biggest jerk on the face of the planet. In the end, I don’t think I did anything irretrievable, but I’m not sure I made the right choice.

When I run the situation through the Liana filter, the question becomes, if I were driving a car that is risky to my child in an accident would I want to know? Simple answer: yes. But the more complicated question is who would I want to be the one to tell me? My pediatrician wouldn’t tell me because s/he doesn’t even know what type of car I drive. My friends/family probably wouldn’t know about the risks unless it was featured on Eyewitness News. So is it OK that a random stranger with special knowledge comes and gives me this information? Or is it just plain obnoxious?

Published by: teendoc on June 26th, 2008 | Filed under health, pediatrics

12 Responses to “Obnoxious, That’s Me”

  1. OmegaMom Says:

    My question is: Is it better for the kid to be in the back seat of the compact pick up rather than in the front seat? The study didn’t say. Given that he’s using the truck for work and isn’t likely to have a second vehicle, what’s the safest spot in his truck for the kid?

    OmegaMoms last blog post..Today we begin the long, slow slide into darkness

  2. teendoc Says:

    Unfortunately there was no way to answer that with Flaura’s study since she studied crash data and there weren’t people putting the car seat into the front seat of the truck for her to use as a comparison group. Yet since we know that the front seat of any car is riskier, it would follow that the kid is most likely safest in the rear seat, but unfortunately that isn’t as safe as a whole lot of other cars.

  3. DoctorMama Says:

    I struggle with this one too. My natural shyness prevents me from speaking up most of the time, but it’s probably the right thing to do.
    You know who is probably really pissed? The kid’s mother, because you can bet that father went home and said “A doctor told me YOU have to drop her off and pick her up from now on”!

  4. Michele Says:

    Hey Liana- I’d want to know if I were that parent. Better to be in an awkward situation for a moment than to unknowingly put your child in danger.

    Just to clarify (since we just bought a new truck), the full size crew cab trucks with full back doors and a full back seat are OK, right?? Please??

  5. teendoc Says:

    No issue with those trucks according to Flaura’s research, so you can exhale!

  6. Fred Says:

    I think you handled this just fine and I agree with your assessment that word doesn’t get out much. I’m just surprised you weren’t faced with this conundrum years ago, if the study came out 10 years ago. Also, have there been any updates to that study?

    Another way to handle such situations, maybe (or maybe not) … find a layman-readable article about that study, print a copy, and keep it handy. When you come across someone to whom it’s relevant, leave a copy on their windshield with a note such as “In case you haven’t heard about this”….

  7. teendoc Says:

    Interesting idea, but somehow I think that might be worse than approaching someone directly.

    And no, I haven’t seen any updates to this study. It was published in JAMA in 2002.

  8. Lori Says:

    Liana, you never know what sort of ripple effect you may have had.

    A tough etiquette issue, but a clear-cut safety issue, IMHO.

  9. Marcia Says:

    You did the right thing. Maybe this guy does need the truck and won’t change his habit using it to drop off the child at daycare. There may be times when he has a choice of using a different vehicle and that info might weigh into the decision. I can also see a scenario playing out where he starts using this info to his “advantage” with his partner. “oh, I would take the baby with me to the store, but, you know, I have to use the truck.” 🙂

  10. Louise Says:

    I think it is totally fine that you did that. Children come first, I say!

    Now, another car/seat question for you…

    I have been hearing some buzz that kiddos need to stay rear-facing as long as possible, even up to two years of age if possible. Any thoughts/advice on that??

  11. teendoc Says:

    Even though I didn’t follow this advise myself, there are valid reasons to do so. Here’s a page that provides a good explanation about why: http://www.car-safety.org/rearface.html

  12. Shannon Says:

    If you told me that, in those terms, introduced in a nice way, explaining that you were a pediatrician and referring to a real study, I would thank you profusely and head home to research the issue and maybe change cars, or look into getting an inexpensive, but safer second car for the baby.

    Some on-the-street advice from strangers definitely peeves me–especially advice that is more about personal preference–but this is relevant to my child’s serious safety (traffic accidents are really common!), and you really are an expert, and it sounds like your tone was respectful and polite.

    Shannons last blog post..People Can Really be Jerks, You Know?

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