Footage recorded by a man who spotted a toddler left in his parent’s car has sparked a debate over the duty of bystanders.
The TikTok video, posted by Freddy or @freddyboi90 on October 10, was shot from his car parked outside a convenience store. Freddy’s social media profiles indicated that he lives in Des Moines, Iowa. His video has racked up over 4 million views.
“So I pull up to the store, right,” Freddy said from his driver’s seat. “I get out the truck, I hear something.”
He turned his camera to the car parked next to him, where a toddler sat alone in the backseat. The child’s eyes appeared to be closed and his arms fidgeted over his head.
“Do y’all see what’s in the car? Where is the parent?” said Freddy, adding that he would stay and watch until the parent returned.
“What are y’all possibly getting to leave a child in the car like this?” he demanded, turning back to the storefront. “I can’t believe this.”
Later, Freddy posted a follow-up video of the child’s mother walking back to her car. He said in a comment that she was gone for five to eight minutes.
While some TikTok viewers thanked the driver for “babysitting,” others argued that he should have called the police.
Amber Rollins, director of the national nonprofit Kids and Car Safety, told Newsweek the video was “hard to watch.”
“What most people don’t understand is there are a lot of things that can happen in literally less than a minute,” said Rollins.
Many parents know about the danger of children suffering heat stroke in a vehicle, a tragedy that has already killed 30 children in 2022. But a host of other crises can happen in a matter of seconds.
This year, Kids and Cars has documented over 200 children left inside vehicles that were stolen. In 2021, a 13-year-old girl in Wichita, Kansas, was left in a running car when a carjacker jumped in and drove it away. The girl attempted to get out while the car was moving and ended up being dragged for miles before she died.
Thousands of children have been seriously injured or strangled to death by power windows, while others have strangled themselves with seatbelts when left alone, said Rollins. Every year, hundreds of children also inadvertently knock cars into gear. When the car starts moving, a panicked child may jump or fall out of the car and get run over.
“There is no safe amount of time for a child of any age to be left alone in a vehicle,” said Rollins. “It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a safe neighborhood. All of these things can happen anywhere.”
Rollins said that any bystander who sees a child alone in a car should call 911.
“Nobody is trying to be the parent police or ruin any families, but we just don’t know how long that child has been there. We don’t know how much longer they’re going to be there,” she said.
If the doors are locked and the child appears to be distressed, Rollins recommended breaking a window to remove the child immediately, then staying with them until police arrive. A child suffering from heat should be quickly cooled down with air conditioning, ice or shade. Twenty-four states have passed “Good Samaritan Laws,” which protect citizens from liability if they break into a vehicle to rescue a child in distress.
To parents and caregivers, Rollins said, “We have got to get away from this ‘It won’t happen to me’ mentality. Because that’s exactly who these things happen to.”