Child Safety: Leaving Kids in Cars AloneBy Child Safety Specialist June 5, 2012 | 12:00 PMPosted in: Child Safety, Family
“I’ll only be a minute...” and other excuses for leaving your kids alone in a car
Most people heard the story about the Tanning Mom who took her daughter into the tanning salon with her. But there was another story about child safety that didn’t receive as much press – Tanning Mom 2. This was a woman who left her 8 mos. old and 6 year-old in the car and left it running while she went into a tanning salon to get a tan. Hmmm, she must have thought this was waayyyy better than taking her kids into the tanning room with her.
I admit that this story is truly outrageous, but many well-intentioned parents make the decision every day to leave their kids in the car because they just need to run back in the house for a minute or run into the gas station to pay or run into a deli to grab a drink. They figure that it’s only going to be a minute and, let’s face it, leaving kids in cars is so much easier than having to haul the kids out of the car.
Every state’s laws are different but currently there are 14 states that prohibit leaving a child in a car but some of them state that the child must be in obvious dangers. Some, however, dictate that it’s against the law whether the car is running or not. Even more confusing is that fact that every state’s prosecutors have the discretion to prosecute a parent under child endangerment laws if they feel there was a significant threat to the child.
The other question is at what age a child can, in fact, be left alone in a car. This also is vague. Would someone get prosecuted for leaving a 12 year-old in the car? The reality is that everyone should err on the side of caution regardless of the laws. While it seems as if leaving your child in the car for just a few minutes would be fine, people don’t realize how quickly a car can heat up in the summer. Temperatures inside a car can increase 30 to 40 degrees in an hour with 70% of that occurring in the first 30 minutes. Depending upon the temperature, children could die in as little as 20 minutes. And, while child abductions are rare, they are not impossible. It’s just not worth taking the risk.
But what about those “gray” areas? When it really is only a few moments and you’re running in the gas station to pay for gas or running in to the pizza place to grab the pizza? What are your rules about leaving kids alone in the car? Let me hear from you.
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