Deciding What’s News: Child Danger Edition

Got this letter which is so perfect, I had to share:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Here we go again:

 This is the top story in Philly!

When this story first broke, it was that babies were found in the car, rescued, and rushed to the hospital.

Later, information emerged that the SUV had the air conditioning on, water and snacks for the kids, and a 9 year-old with the younger kids.  Yet police still had to pry the door off and rush them to the hospital.

I only checked the news because we were on vacation in Ocean City, NJ and a 14 year-old boy went missing in a rip current near our beach and is presumed dead (after a scary Coast Guard search) . There was also another drowning in a local creek of a 15 year-old boy the same day.  So we’re talking about 2 actual *child* deaths from swimming…but the kids in the air-conditioned car are the lead news story. – Ms. Sick of This

Dear Ms. Sick: Of course the kids in cars story leads, for two reasons:

1 – We are obsessed by kids in cars and think they are all in danger, no matter how short a time they are in there, and no matter how old they are. Remember that some parents have been yelled at for putting the child in the car and then returning the cart to the corral, as if even a MINUTE is too long for a child to survive.

2 – The kids in cars story involves feeling smug and superior to the person who left them. That is such a deeply satisfying feeling, the TV producers lead with it. It gives the viewers exactly what they want: Schadenfreude, while the children who actually died are just plain tragedies and we don’t have anyone to blame (yet). – L


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63 Responses to Deciding What’s News: Child Danger Edition

  1. Tamara July 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    I think you hit it right on the head, Lenore. People somehow get a charge out of others’ misfortune, although I wonder if it isn’t more that they use it as an opportunity to hold up their holier-than-thou status – “I would never allow THAT to happen to MY children because obviously I am a better parent.” How many times I have seen news stories just like this and thought, “my goodness, there but for the grace…..”

  2. mystic_eye July 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Holy cow, I got left in cars all the time without airconditioning (because in my dad’s view leaving the car running with a child in it was a bad plan, also leaving the car running is a waste of gas). If it got hot I was to get out, take the keys with me, use the keys to lock the door and then either go find him or stay within sight of the vehicle (unless we’d arranged that I’d go somewhere else. Beat the heck out of going in places where people felt the need to entertain me while my dad did some tech fix that took 5, 10, 20 minutes.

    Sheesh. Same with swimming, I don’t get my knickers in a knot over the parents that let their kids go swimming in the river near my mom’s without life-jackets. Personally, I don’t because the river has fast spots, the bottom is fairly unpredictable in places, and my kids don’t swim well. Other kids? They’re not mine. I don’t know how well they swim, how well their parents swim, blah blah blah.

  3. mystic_eye July 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    Also, anyone think it was reasonable the 9 year old didn’t open the door because clearly the adults (cops included) were acting batshit crazy?

  4. JaneW July 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    I just got some email warning me that heat is the second-leading cause of car-related deaths in children, after accidents. Which… sounds a whole lot more dramatic than it is. Yes, car collisions kill people, but other car-related deaths are pretty darned rare. Especially if you are a child and not a mechanic.

  5. Buffy July 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    I started reading the comments on the original story until I couldn’t take it any more. The judgement, fear-mongering and worst-first thinking is out of control. This is my favorite:

    “simply put, the children should be removed from the home and the parents should be up on charges of Child endangerment. Its that simple. No debate. There is never a reason to leave any child in a car unsupervised, I don’t care what the temperature is, Not for an hour not for 5 minutes”

    Yeah dude, it’s always so “simple” to remove children from their home. And of course, let’s not debate it either. Idiot.

  6. Brooks July 3, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    I left my 13 year old in the car today while running into the bank, which took way too long. He was so obsessed with his %&*^$^&^ phone that he didn’t bother to roll down the windows or get out of the car when it warmed up. He yelled, “Dad, why didn’t you leave the A/C on?” I responded, “See that door handle right there? It works.”

  7. Donna July 3, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    I was at a store today and some guy had left his dog in the car for few minutes. The windows were fully rolled down – not cracked, but fully rolled down – so the dog was in no danger for a short period of time. I sat longer today waiting for camp pick up (too little time to go home after court) in a similar situation and didn’t die. When I came out of the store some woman was berating the man – and it had clearly been going on for awhile.

    It seems like we have lost all sense of reason on this issue. Sitting in a car equals huge danger, regardless of the actual circumstances and risks. I get that sitting in the car on a hot Georgia summer day isn’t a completely pleasant experience, but it isn’t certain death for 10 minutes with the windows open.

  8. Nicole July 3, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    Kids in hot cars is the buzzword of the summer, and they know what sells. Now, since the woman is a daycare provider, I’d be a little concerned over that. It’s one thing to know as a parent that your 9 year old is responsible, but probably not the wisest thing to leave 5 kids unattended for more than 20 minutes when they aren’t yours and you’re being paid to watch them. Seems like poor planning. But taking the kids to the hospital when they were sitting in a comfortably air-conditioned car? Were they evaluating them for PTSD, or maybe frostbite?

  9. lollipoplover July 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    No question there was poor planning when you need to grocery shop while providing daycare to kids. But these kids were never actual in any *hot car* danger as they were air conditioned the whole time. Why the dramatic break-in to get the kids out of the car? Couldn’t they have gone into the store and paged the owner of the SUV? The level of busybodyness went to Defcon 5. And the media ate it all up.

    To sensationalize every kid in a car is creating this wickedly paranoid world where we look at summer days and cars and automatically go to death. Yet the child deaths are actually in the ocean, creeks, and gun violence that takes way to many young lives. But that doesn’t get the ratings. Too sad.

  10. Papilio July 3, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    “It seems like we have lost all sense of reason on this issue. Sitting in a car equals huge danger, regardless of the actual circumstances and risks.”
    If only that meant people would drive less.

  11. Silver Fang July 3, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

    Nine is plenty old enough to be left in a car for a few minutes. My concern is with babies and toddlers in car seats being left because they can’t adjust the air, put down the window or call for help. An older child can do these things.

  12. no rest for the weary July 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm #


    These children were “rescued”?

    1. save (someone) from a dangerous or distressing situation.
    “firemen were called out to rescue a man trapped in the river”
    synonyms: save, save from danger, save the life of, come to the aid of; free, set free, release, liberate “an attempt to rescue the hostages”

    Were the children distressed? Well, probably once the histrionics began. Otherwise, sitting in a car on their own with the A/C on, while the lady got some groceries, doubtful.

    Were the children in a “dangerous situation”?

    Well, this is the crux of the matter, if we’re using the word “rescue.” And I guess one person’s “dangerous situation” is another person’s “mundane facet of modern living.”

  13. no rest for the weary July 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    And I’d like to begin a counter-campaign to the one that says no one should ever leave a child in a car unattended for any length of time in any circumstances:

    Leave the kids in the car, and LEAVE THE WINDOWS DOWN.

    This is for anything but the dead of winter. And in the dead of winter, leave them in the car with their coat on and the windows up.


    And let’s see who gets arrested. Because I am betting there isn’t one case of a child being left for an hour or less in a car with the windows down in warm weather who died of hyperthermia. And I’m betting there isn’t one case of a child being abducted by someone in a parking lot because the windows are down.

    So there.

  14. Gina July 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    @NO REST: In general, I agree with you, but I think some of it depends on geography. In the desert, even with the windows completly down, a child in a car seat could overheat in less than an hour, even in the shade. I think people don’t realize how hot 115-120 actually is.

  15. Lizzie July 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    My boyfriend and I are 16, and we were waiting for his mom in the car, and we had a police man and store employee come up and ask if we were okay, and then chastise his mother for leaving children in the car– which we had started and had AC running.

  16. Emily Morris July 3, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    I admit, kids left in hot cars terrifies me. I’m distressed over those sorts of deaths.

    But lets call momthis what it is: kids left in an air conditioned car. Say what you will about the appropriateness, this is not a car death tragedy. Discuss those horrible drowning.

  17. Donna July 3, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    Papilio – Of course, it is only parked cars that are havens of death. Moving cars are perfectly safe.

  18. Adam July 4, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    Lenore, in all seriousness, you should collect all of these type stories, the ones with police involved, especially ones where parents are charged criminally, and do a breakdown of the parents involved by race and socioeconomic position.
    I don’t have a tone of data points, but so far, it looks as though this happens disproportionately often to
    a) parents of color
    b) poor parents

    Something tells me the cops aren’t getting called for kids left in a Mercedes SUV with DVD player.
    I left a comment on the NBC article (have to log in with Facebook?!)
    but left before I got really angry at the sheer stupidity and vindictiveness of many of the commenters.

  19. CLamb July 4, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    What we need is a story about how a child avoid being kidnapped because she was safely locked in a car which the attempted predator was unable to open.

  20. Adam July 4, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    Lenore check this out. Especially the righteous list of Dos and don’ts at the bottom.

    Clearly no effor to actually think about the implications of this statistic.
    “of the 606 children to die of heatstroke in a vehicle between the years of 1998 to 2013, 108 of those children were intentionally left behind in the vehicles by adults.”

    That’s 606 tragic and probably unnecessary deaths. BUT
    Can’t help but compare it to the probably over 100,000 who died in moving car accidents.

    Also, what happened ot the other 500? Seriously.

  21. mystic_eye July 4, 2014 at 12:48 am #


    The other 500 are kids who were mainly babies who were legitimately forgotten. I shudder to think that some were people living in their cars, probably asleep. Some were mobile children who entered the unbeknownst to their caregivers, sometimes hide and seek related, often at large gatherings the way children sometimes slip away when many people are around and everything assumes everyone else is watching. Some are murders, as seems to be the case in one of the recent cases.

    Of the 108 many of the parents were addicts (including gambling addictions, casinos mostly no actively look for these), some of the parents were mentally ill, some had no choice (extreme poverty), and some of the parents were truly neglectful. I have my doubts that any of these involve a child left in a car while running a quick errand unless there was an underlying unknown health condition.

  22. lollipoplover July 4, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    What baffles me is those who are arguing that the children WERE in danger as the running car could easily be carjacked (even though it was locked).

    Who in the world would want to carjack an SUV with 5 kids in it??? I’d prefer a car full of pit bulls, personally.

  23. CrazyCatLady July 4, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    I leave my kids ages 9, 12 and 14 in the car at times when they come with me. They have these instructions. If anyone comes to them and asks them about being too hot or alone in the car (windows open) then they are to get out of the car (don’t talk to THESE strangers!)and come into the store and find me.

    I figure if the police come, they can meet me at the car where I can show them that my kids are perfectly able to remove themselves from any “danger” by walking away. This may not “save” me from being charged, but it is good evidence to show to a judge if needed.

  24. K July 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    I think that there should be an easier way to get police departments to pay for unnecessary damage they cause to personal property when there either isn’t an imminent emergency or they don’t happen to think of using the keys that are available in a few minutes if they have the mother paged.

  25. no rest for the weary July 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    As far as the most generalized statistics go, comparing the deaths of kids left inside of cars and kids being driven as passengers in cars, it goes something like this:

    44 children per year die inside of a stationary car, mostly by hyperthermia.

    650 children per year die as passengers in moving vehicles, usually when they are unrestrained.

    So right off the bat, we can say that your child is in FITEEN TIMES MORE DANGER riding in a moving car than they are sitting alone in a stationary car.

    But wait, there’s more to see here. Of those 44 “children alone in a parked car” deaths, all but 6% of them are babies and toddlers. So 94% of those kids are under age 3.

    And 50% of those were forgotten.

    So I’m going to venture this: If your child is age four or above, it is highly unlikely your child will die if you intentionally leave them in the car with the engine off and the windows rolled down while you run an errand. Even if it takes you 20 minutes or more.

    The probability of harm or death is virtually zero.

    And it is highly unlikely that your kid will die when the car is moving if you have them in a proper restraint and the driver is sober. Does not matter what age of child.

    So this hysteria of pointing and screaming whenever we see a child sitting in a car waiting for their parent is ridiculous. Kids are in the same amount of danger when they walk down a city street holding their parent’s hand, and no one gets arrested for that.

    The main thing I would caution is that leaving the engine running is a bad idea on many fronts. It might seem “safer” to leave the A/C on with the engine running and the doors locked to “prevent” both hyperthermia and abduction, but both of these possibilities are virtually nil if you leave the engine off and the windows completely down.

    If the engine is on and the windows are operable, this can be a problem if a kid manages to get caught in a window going up. And certainly it’s easier to get a car into gear and have it roll off if the engine is on (this is nearly impossible if the engine is off and the keys are not in the car).

    So let’s be clear: Your kids are in less danger sitting in a parked car than they are emerging into the parking lot or street to cross it. That’s just the truth of the situation.

    But leaving the car running is a bad, bad, bad idea. THAT ought to be the safety campaign.

  26. Andrea July 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Whoa, wait a minute. America officially confuses me.

    1. Parent leaves child in car for 20 minutes. Child is fine. America freaks out.

    2. Parent does not secure gun in home, child finds gun and shoots and kills sibling. Collective shrug by America.

  27. CrazyCatLady July 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Lizzie, that is just sad, sad, sad. A 16 year old can legally DRIVE the car. But they can’t sit in it without an adult?

  28. jessica July 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    We had friends over (ages 8, 5, 5, 2). the friends were getting ready to leave and we asked a couple of my children (ages 12 and 9) to accompany the children to their car in my driveway while the mother filled up her water bottle and put on her shoes. We were inside a couple of minutes while the kids were climbing into the car and getting strapped in boosters/car seats – the 12 year old directly in charge of the 2 yr old – when a neighbor came over and started yelling at the 12 year old for putting the kids in the car on a hot day. Now mind you the doors were all wide open so that the kids could climb in – they were supervised by a babysitting age child and most importantly they were *getting ready to leave*.

    The mind boggles. I can only think that she intends for parents to start the car before loading children? doesn’t sound particularly safe either. And it wasn’t that hot of a day – probably a pleasant mid-80’s, the car was in the shade, as I mentioned all the doors were opened, and the mother of the children had just returned to pick them up about 10 minutes before so the car was already fairly temperate from the air conditioning she had been running while driving.

  29. jessica July 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    I also find some comfort in living in a state with definitive laws on the subject. In general – not a big fan of such things. But our laws are almost reasonable and at least I can fall back on them when needed. Plus they state that, regardless of the ages, the law doesn’t kick in until actual harm occurs.

    I know DFS can swoop in with their own brand of BS, but at least it’s something.

  30. no rest for the weary July 4, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    We are prosecuting adults when no actual harm has come to a child.

    Think about that.

    No actual harm has come to a child, and the adult is charged with a crime.

    I am in dialogue with some lady who runs a “kids are dying inside of cars” website. Her logic for laws and prosecution? One child is one child too many.

    But what about the one child who was killed in my town when a truck ran him over as he walked down the sidewalk HOLDING HIS MOTHER’S HAND? Isn’t that one child too many? Kids are being injured and killed as pedestrians in parking lots; isn’t that too many children as well?

    When are we going to accept that there is no way to prevent the “one child” from dying, no matter how punitively we treat parents and caregivers whose charges have COME TO NO ACTUAL HARM?

    I am so sick of this.

  31. Yocheved July 4, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Comments are closed on the post about the guy who killed his 22 month old in a hot car, so I’ll just park this right here (pardon the pun).

    Apparently, this guy was a grade A sleezeball.

  32. K July 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    No Rest for the Weary,
    I am sick of it too. It has changed our culture and the nature of childhood.

    Not too long ago my kids fell asleep in the car and when we arrived at home an adult friend and I decided to let them sleep while we sat in the front seat with the doors open and talked. We had the privilege of listening to the neighbors discuss whether or not they should call the police because the kids were in the car. One really wanted to. The other said the police wouldn’t be interested because 2 adults were also in the car and the doors were open. After a full length conversation, the person who said the police wouldn’t be interested won. It’s sad, but it’s not about the safety of the kids. It’s like everything else, some people get off on the rush of power they feel get when they turn someone in.

  33. no rest for the weary July 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    Yeah, this is what I’m talking about: convincing people to abandon their critical thinking skills in favour of following a “do-gooder command” like “If you see a child in a parked car, call 911.”

    Hm. Let’s see. But the doors of the car are open. And there are two adults in the car with the kids.

    But still! There are kids in a parked car! Call 911!


  34. lollipoplover July 5, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Did anyone at the scene bother to ask the kids if they were hot or uncomfortable? At ages 8-9, most kids can communicate their issues unless dramatic adults at the scene scare the sh@t out of them by creating an emergency where there was none.

    I hate how these older kids were called toddlers. It’s insulting to their intelligence (and mine) to watch the dramatic *rescue* and see them walked to the ambulance like they were just exposed to a nuclear meltdown. If only the 14 year-old who drowned in Ocean City NJ had such a response when he fell victim to a riptide (they found his body yesterday).

    I stayed in the car practically half my summer with my siblings in a steamy station wagon with windows down. There were sweaty kids, brothers beating on each other, and yes, crying. No one called the police because we weren’t in trouble. Now, you take an adult-less Lincoln SUV with air-conditioning and full of kids and we go to unattended luggage at the airport mode.

    So very frightening.

  35. Neil M July 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    It’s interesting to note that while many people are eager to remove kids from a home and convict their parents, they’re less willing to, say, shell out more in taxes to provide a better social safety net that would keep parents from having to make these kinds of choices. If society insists that children must be supervised 100% of the time, I think society should pony up the funds to see that this happens. Unfortunately, it’s easier (but not cheaper) to call police and throw parents into jail. The whole business makes me wonder who’s *really* negligent here.

  36. Omer Golan-Joel July 6, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    The rule should be that the authorities should intervene *only when actual harm has been done*. You can, after all, arrest almost everyone for “endangering” or “having the potential to commit a crime” but that’s the way of totalitarianism. So, no real harm done to anyone? No crime. As simple as that.

  37. Warren July 6, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    Soon parents will be charged with endangering for having their kids in the car, on the highways during rush hour. After all the stats would back up the arresting officer.

  38. SOA July 6, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    See this would have been my mom then. She used to take her daycare kids to the grocery store and sometimes when I was about 10 and up she would leave me in the locked car with the AC running with the kids while she ran into the store real quick. I was very good with the kids and they just sat in their car seats and I would sing them songs or something till she got back. Nothing ever happened. Now it would be even safer because she could leave me with a cell phone or walkie talkie if I needed to call to get her to come back.

    But now that would get her arrested.

  39. Catherine Uffen July 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    The Law in Ontario Canada is interpreted AGAINST the parent who “exposes” his or child to risk by leaving them alone in a car. Police do NOT have the discretion NOT to charge a parent who does so. As well the parents will be investigated by the CAS. From the Toronto Star: In general, Canada’s Criminal Code offers some direction about when it’s appropriate to leave a child unattended.

    In Section 218 — legislation dealing with child abandonment, under which the father in the Markham case is charged — the law defines “children” as being under the age of 10.

    Anyone who “unlawfully abandons or exposes a child . . . so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured” can be sent to jail for up to five years, according to the legislation.

    “Officers that attended and investigated deemed that, with all of the circumstances at the time, that the child could have been seriously injured,” Pattenden said, though he added that the girl was, fortunately, unharmed.

    But Ontario parents who leave their young unattended may also be subject to the province’s Child and Family Services Act, which outlines behaviour that could prompt an investigation by a local Children’s Aid Society; the society is now involved in the Markham case.

    This legislation pertains to children 16 and younger, unless the child is already in the CAS system, in which case the cut-off extends to 18 years.

    The section most relevant to child abandonment dictates that a child is in need of protection when he or she has suffered physical harm as a result of their parent’s “failure to adequately care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child.”

  40. Dirk July 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Wow. Can not agree with here you Lenore… You leave so much out of these stories.

    The children include a 6-month-old, a a 1-year-old, a 6-year- old, an 8-year-old, and a 9 year old. None of the kids belonged to Karen Thompson, the woman who was charged.

    A woman was walking by and saw the kids crying (I assume it was the 6 month old and 1 year old crying). She told the store (ShopRight) security who then made an announcement over the PA. After 20 minutes no one answered the announcement over the PA…so the store called the cops. The cops found her in the store still shopping!

    Here is the full story…

    You can find others. But they all basically say that the woman who first saw the kids noticed them because she heard crying. The ShopRight food store made announcements over the PA. After 20 minutes no one came forward. The ShopRight food store called the cops who found Karen Thompson still shopping in the store!

    I mean, you say the SUV had a “9 year-old with the younger kids” in it but you don’t say that the younger kids included two babies? Two of the kids in that car couldn’t walk or talk yet! Are you saying a 9 year old can take care of a 6 month old and a 1 year old? Or that the 8 and 9 year old could tag team care for them? This is a question I have asked before but have never gotten a response. How long is it ok to leave a 6 month old with zero care? In this case remember all reports indicated that the woman who found them says the kids were crying when she got there so clearly no one was doing a good job of caring for the 6 month old and the 1 year old.

    I always shake my head because everyone knows that not leaving your kids in the car, even if you don’t agree with it, is the common practice now. Even if you think you should be allowed to leave 6 month old babies in the car you have to admit that you should know people wont agree with you. And you have to know that people will call the cops.

    A 6 month old, 1 year old, 6 year old, 8 year old, and a 9 year old were locked in the SUV because she was food shopping? She could have avoided getting arrested by coming forward immediately but she ignored the PA announcements and the store called the cops. And you are outraged? What? She shouldn’t have left them in the car and you know it…

  41. Dirk July 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    @ SOA

    When you say real quick…do you mean more than 20 minutes? Because the kids were in the SUV and the store gave this individual 20 minutes to answer announcements over their PA system. (In reality I figure the kids were in there for closer to 30 minutes.) But I am honestly asking. Also, would she have left you with infants and babies? The age spread was 6-month-old boy, 1-year-old girl, 6-year-old boy, 8-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl.

  42. Dirk July 7, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Also, I can’t help but think if I was paying someone to provide daycare for my 6 month old I would be at least a little upset that she left my 6 month old to be babysat by a 9 year old (who was also in caring for a 1 year old and a 6 year old…with the help of an 8 year old?) while she went food shopping…

  43. Dirk July 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    If it bleeds it leads does annoy me though…

  44. Steve July 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    Your last comment was most on-point. Why was this woman transporting kids in her car at all as an in-home daycare worker? The trip TO the store was the dangerous part of this episode.

    Once parked, these kids were in no danger at all. The 8 and 9 year old don’t have to be accomplished babysitters to provide a just in case safety margin for the younger kids.

  45. Kay July 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I’d say if I was paying someone to watch my kid, I would be a little peeved to find out they did leave them unattended in a car because I was paying them to watch, not other children in a public place. That’s not to say if this was a parent making a decision, that it is a wrong decision. The hospital trip was over the top, heat wasn’t an issue, and fear of kidnappers should not be made into a reason someone is arrested. All in all it’s more B.S. zero tolerance not unlike the poptart gun in schools, this fear of kids in cars at any time.

  46. Ange July 8, 2014 at 5:01 am #

    I can’t agree with the majority here. It is just not a good idea to leave young children in cars. Older kids are different. One of the problems here in Australia is the fast increase in temperatures that pose a danger to young children ( and pets). One of the defences used by people who see no problem with it is that they are only away for a small amount of time. Yet, how easy it is to get distracted, lose track of time, just visit one more shop, do one more errand etc. Maybe you run into a neighbour and chat. I remember being left in cars as a child ( around 10 years old or so) and most of the time, what was going to be a quick errand on the part of my parents or grandparents always turned out to be much longer. I was never in any danger of anything except boredom, but I was also old enough to get out of the car if need be (no child locks in those days). Babies and young children can’t do this and therefore need supervision (not by another young child either). I didn’t go over the top in supervising my own young children ( we never had baby monitors or anything like that) but I still made sure they were supervised appropriately, and this meant they were not left in cars. Having said all this, however, I do think the reactions Of some members of the public ( and the authorities) at finding unsupervised kids in cars are bordering on the hysterical.

  47. Dirk July 8, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    @ Steve

    How long is it ok to leave a 6 month old in a car without actual care (a 9 year old who wont open the door for the cops isn’t doing any care for the child)? These kids were left in the car for at least 30 minutes (a few minutes before they were noticed, 20 minutes while the store waited for the woman to come forward, another few minutes for the store to call the cops and for them to show up). Even if they are not in danger. How long is it ok for a 6 month old and a 1 year old to be stuck in car seats and locked in a car? How about the 6 year old? Heck how long is it ok to keep an 8 year old and a 9 year old locked in a car too?

    There is another blog entry a few days back about a 10 week old who was left in the car and the mom got arrested. How long is it ok to leave a 10 week old with no care? Imagine it isn’t in a car. Imagine you put your 10 week old in a crib and walk out of the house. How long and how far can you go before you must return?

  48. Dirk July 8, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    @ Ange

    I agree the reaction is borderline hysterical but it occurs for the very reasons you stated. There is virtually zero danger, however, how is anyone to really know because in these situations the kids have been left with no one to speak for them. Cops do not know how long they have been in the car (in the case here it was probably around 30 minutes, the AC was one, however it was the hottest day so far this summer in the city of Philadelphia. But because there is no one to speak for these kids and clearly even the 9 year old couldn’t explain the situation to the cops (how could she, she wouldn’t even unlock the door!) the cops have to act “as if.” I too remember waiting in the car, probably around 10 years old too. And if a cop had come up what would you have said? Oh, my mom is buying milk. See, there she is! Or oh, my dad is returning a movie. See there he is waiving from in line. I wanted to stay here and finish my slushy. But when you leave kids who can’t talk for themselves (be it a 9 year old who for whatever reason is afraid to talk to the cops or even the lady who found these kids, remember she says the kids where crying–or in the other case I talked about–be it a 10 week) when these kids can’t advocate for themselves to essentially buy time till the adult returns then they shouldn’t be left on their own. Imagine this: a cop rolls by in his car, he sees a 6 month old in a car. He stops. The kid looks like he is asleep. Now the cop doesn’t know how long the kid has been in there. Heck, it could be a cool day even. But the cop doesn’t know. Now he taps on the glass, honks his horn, the kid wakes up and is crying. Seems alert enough but is clearly not happy. The baby could be fine but like all babies can be he’s unhappy an crying. You could say he looks distressed. Or maybe the baby wakes up, acts startled by the noises the cop makes, but falls back asleep. The cop has no idea about the state of the child really. What does he do? Seriously? What does the cop do? Does he wait? If there is something wrong every minute does matter. And yes it is virtually assured that the child is in no danger. But there is a definite teeny tinny minority of the time when the child is indeed in danger. What does the cop do? What would you do? Would you want to be the cop who drove away and found out later that the kid died? Is it likely? No. It is not likely. Would it happen every year? Yes. It would. Would virtually 99.9 percent of kids left in cars be fine? Yes. Only what? 30 to 40 children die each year from being left in cars and most of them were left in the car for long periods of time. But no cop wants to be the person who could have stopped on of those 30 or so deaths a year and then didn’t. So they act “as if.” I guess the cops could wait around. In the case of the story in this entry these children were left alone for probably around 30 minutes all told. How much longer do you think this individual would have taken to return to the kids? Another 10 minutes? 20? She was grocery shopping. How long does that take? An hour? Is it ok leave these kids in the car for an hour alone? Should the Philadelphia police department waited another all that time? With the babies crying? Tears are not the end of the world but the cops don’t know. And with the kids being left alone for that long with no one to talk for them and the kids unable to talk for themselves they really do have to act as if.

  49. Ange July 9, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    Yes I think we agree. Regarding my comments about the hysterical reactions, I really meant such things as carting the kids off to hospital, when it’s most probably not needed.
    For myself, if I came across a baby alone in a car I would certainly try to find the parent or alert someone. For the record, I regard the risk of kidnapping, babies being stolen from the car etc. as almost negligible, the risk of dehydration more significant ( especially in certain circumstances), the risk of the parent being delayed or forgetting the baby somewhat higher again – all in all I consider that it is not wise to leave babies in cars. I think it is less of a worry with older children, but ideally something to be avoided. And, I think that with a bit of forethought and planning it should not be necessary to leave a baby in a car alone. I do agree with raising free range kids, but I don’t think it applies the same to babies and toddlers. They need supervision.

  50. SOA July 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Well in my mom’s specific case the parents are told upon enrollment that she will take the kids around town on errands and the parents have to agree to it. Now, they may have not wanted the kids left in the car alone with a much older kid to supervise but then knew she was driving them around.

    Nowadays this whole situation would not fly due to liability and having to have all daycares licensed but back then it was way more lax in all that. But it was a nice neighborhood in broad daylight in a parking lot of a grocery store and there was zero chance of anything happening. She would run in and buy milk or something and be gone probably up to 15 to 20 minutes.

    Since in Europe women leave kids sitting outside stores in strollers this case would actually be safer because they are locked inside a car with an older kid watching them strapped into car seats with the ac running.

  51. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Highly unlikely? Yes. But tell that to the parents of:

    Logan Cox, of Buford, S.C., who had been missing for less than an hour Wednesday before he was found in a parked car in front of the family’s home, died Sunday of heatstroke, according to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C

    Kid was in the car for an hour. He’s dead now. Tell his parents how unlikely it was see how they feel about it. Imagine if a someone had walked by and said, meh, he;s probably only been there a few minutes very unlikely anything is going to happen here. I should mind my own business.

  52. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:20 am #


    Last week, Clevinger said Logan hadn’t been in the hot car for long when the family found him.

    “Anywhere from 15, 15 to 20 minutes, if that,” Clevinger said.

  53. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    Or Beth Kozel, her child died of hyperthermia within an hour. Again, that is why people call the cops right away.

  54. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Jared Andrew Lewis. 11 months old. Died after being in the car for for less than 2 hours.,2811595

  55. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    2 year old dies after being trapped in a car for only an hour.

  56. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Bryan Puckett died, 11 months old, died after being left in a car for just two hours.

  57. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Jordan Coleman, 4 years old, dead after being in a van for 2 hours.

  58. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Logan Cox, 3 years old, died after being trapped in a car less than an hour.

  59. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Cory Clark was locked in a car for about 20 minutes. He died.

  60. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    After just one hour in a car this two year old in TX died.

  61. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Carson Adams was a 2 year old who died locked in her parent’s car in front of her own house.

  62. Dirk July 10, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    It goes on and on.

    It is incredibly unlikely to happen. It is. Mainly because most people do not leave their children in cars, and if they do they do it for an appropriate amount of time.

    It is unlikely. But here is the reason people and the cops act the way they do…when they see the child that has been left in a car…and there is no adult in the area who shows up to claim them…they don’t know how long they have been there.

    Read the item below. The scenario below is why people and cops act the way they do. Is it unlikely? Sure. But it happens. And it happens in as little as 20 minutes. And no cop wants to be the guy who did nothing that one time it happened…

    A Fishers woman was charged Thursday with felony child neglect after police found her 16-month-old daughter left alone in a hot SUV last week.

    Meg Trueblood, 30, is accused of leaving her daughter for at least an hour while she went shopping Saturday afternoon.

    According to the probable cause affidavit, Fishers Police were called to the scene outside Simply Chic on East 96th Street at around 3:30 pm after someone noticed the child inside the SUV.

    The responding officer went inside the store and asked if anyone there owned the SUV, but he could not locate the owner. He went back outside, smashed the window and took the girl out of the SUV and into the store.

    Police say the temperature inside the SUV was 124 degrees, and the temperature outside was 102, with a heat index of 107.

    The little girl was limp and unresponsive, and began to go into seizures as the officer and store employees tried to cool her down. During that time, Trueblood identified herself as the girl’s mother.

    A store employee told the officer that Trueblood had been in the store for around an hour. The employee said she was helping Trueblood find a dress because Trueblood told her she was meeting a man later that night.

    Who wants to be the person or the cop who doesn’t smash in that window?