Help Needed: Your “I Let My Kid Wait in the Car” Stories!

From my mailbag…straight to my stomach, which is knotted in fear and anger:
Hi Lenore, my name is Christina Moon. I am a 32 year old mom of two girls, ages 7 and 4. A few weeks ago I had to make a return at a jcpenney near our home in Michigan. My four year old begged me to let her wait in the car and watch her movie so I let her, I left the car running with the ac on and the doors locked. I parked my car in front near the handicap spots. It took a lot longer than I had anticipated because of Mother’s Day. When I came out there was a woman and a police officer standing by my car. I had been in the store approx 15 minutes. I am now facing criminal charges and have been investigated by child protective services. I live in a nice community and was aware of my surroundings. This has created such stress on our family and I can’t believe the lengths they are taking. My daughter was safer in our locked vehicle than most children in America. This is so infuriating to me. And to top it off the police officer called me a bad mom in front of my daughter. Thought I’d share this with you after reading your articles….
To which I replied: I am so sickened by this …. Remember, what you did was not TERRIBLE. It was a normal thing that parents have done for generations, and if your errand took a little longer than you expected, that’s what happens in life. It’s not a tragedy, it’s a blip! I am so sick of “Good Samaritans” handing parents over to the AUTHORITIES instead of doing their bit by just watching the kid, if they’re so worried!
To which she replied: Yes you can share my story. It has been a nightmare for our family. Even the CPS worker said my daughter is very mature and that I should be proud of how I’ve raised both my girls. The case with them is now closed. However, I have an arraignment June 7th and could possibly face 90 days in jail and $500 in fines.  Again, my daughter was buckled in her car seat, car locked, ac on, windows up, movie playing on headrest. The police officer said someone could have stolen my car by busting in the window. I say shoulda, coulda! I take a shower in my home while my four year old watches cartoons in my room or her playroom, what if someone broke into my home or there was a fire or? I can’t stand that “what if” mentality! I am very safe with my girls and they are my life, I just can’t add unnecessary worry to the normal worry us moms have on a daily basis! Thank you for your support! I definitely need and appreciate it!
By the way, it’s not the fine that worries me. It’s the irreparable damage that will be caused if I’m sentenced to any jail time. I’m fearful the judge will try to make an example of me as this law is so new in Michigan. I had no idea it was illegal to leave her alone, I’ve done so before when I went to the ATM at the gas station or picked up carry out somewhere.
Wanted to get your opinion on whether I should plea guilty or not? I am not getting a lawyer & all the research I’ve done points to a better outcome for me if I plea not guilty. Any insight will be helpful! 
Folks — TOMORROW is Christina’s trial. She tells me she is pleading not guilty — because (of course)  she ISN’T guilty. Maybe if  we all write about the times WE let our kids wait in the car, this could be used as a bit of evidence, as in, “Normal, decent parents let their kids, even under age 6, wait in the car. It is not the parents who need to change, it’s the law.” If you agree, chime in — now! – L 
Kids have waited in cars for generations. (Okay, maybe not at the steering wheel...)

Kids have waited in cars for generations. It’s not negligence if you are simply running an errand!


182 Responses to Help Needed: Your “I Let My Kid Wait in the Car” Stories!

  1. Cara June 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    My advice, as a lawyer, is that she should get a lawyer.

    Lawyers know the rules of evidence, what is persuasive with judges and juries, how the process works, and a ton of other little things that can make all the difference. Ask people in town (especially lawyers) who the best criminal defense lawyer in your area is and hire that person.

  2. Megan W. June 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Yup, leave my four year old in the car under the same conditions. He watches a movie, I get the errand done in no time flat; we are both happier. (In fact, we’ve been grouchy lately, because I can’t get away with it in this heat – I’m too cheap to leave the car running.)

    I hope the judge rules wisely. My tax dollars are not well spent keeping this mother in jail.

  3. Sad June 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    My kids have waited in the car from time to time. In each case, the circumstances were different, the situation was assessed, and the surroundings checked out. Sometimes I decided it was best not to leave them. Every case is different, every kid is different, and parents are the best ones to decide when it’s appropriate.

  4. Paul R. Welke June 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I’ve left my son alone in the car as young as six or seven months.
    When gassing up or stopping at a convenience store to pick something up quickly, I thought it would be better for him to continue his nap than wake him up to pop into a shop for five minutes.
    Now, at age four, he ASKS me if he can wait in the car if I’ve got to stop anywhere that’s “boring”. If it’s going to take less than 15-20 minutes, I usually let him.
    Truthfully, it’s better for both of us. I get to do my errands in peace, and he gets to continue listening to music or (occasionally) watching a movie on the iPad.

  5. Erika June 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    While I think it’s ok for kids to wait in cars, I would not leave a child buckled or the car running. The kid needs to be able to get out of the car in case something happens and you don’t get back for some reason. I probably wouldn’t leave a four year old either, unless the errand was literally pop in/pop out. That said, it’s idiotic to make a criminal matter of it.

  6. Dee June 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I leave my 4yr old in our van at her own request all the time! If I have to run into the grocery store or post office she is just as safe in there as she would be crossing a busy street or parking lot with me to run the errand. A water bottle and an iPod for 10 minutes is a welcome little down time for her and she enjoys it!

  7. David DeLugas June 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Our website will go live in a few weeks. For now, let me point out that an arraignment is a formality in which the court (judge) only takes a plea after informing the accused of the charges. Unless Michigan laws differ, all that will happen will be the reading of the charges, a plea being “entered” (meaning, she says “not guilty”) and then a court date is given or a court date for the trial will be provided later. Though I cannot provide legal advice to any individual (for states in which I am not licensed), generally, the National Association of Parents takes the position, supported by the US Supreme Court, that parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit without government infringement unless and until it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that actual harm has occurred. Thus, in this case, among other defenses, this parent should challenge the Constitutionality of the law under which she is being charged. In the coming weeks, as our membership drive gets underway, we will review this fact situation and consider providing free legal services (as we will be doing for parents, single mothers, single fathers, married and unmarried couples) to guard the parent-child relationship. As for evidence for court, the rules of evidence won’t likely permit letters and emails (not even affidavits) to be admitted. Expert testimony may be necessary (to show the absence of risk to the child). Free Range Kids is AWESOME and, as FRK comes at it from the perspective that children are NOT actually at risk of harm and that it is better for children to have greater freedoms to play and to do things, the National Association of Parents takes the position that it is the parents’ right, not anyone else, to decide what their children do so long as the parents are not harming their children. Stay tuned for more from his public service law firm, a parents’ member association!

  8. Christina Cervantes June 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    My name is Christina Cervantes and I am a mother of 2 Children, ages 7 and 9. We reside in Stockton, California, a City with a national crime rate ranked at #7 in the nation, just above Oakland, CA. I have been leaving my children unattended in the car, windows and doors locked and AC or Heater on since they were 3 and 5, respectively, to run in and pay for gas, pick up dry cleaning, into the grocery for milk and bread, what have you. They are responsible children and I trust them more than I trust others. My 9 year old knows what to do if someone tries to break in, but lo and behold, it’s been 4 years and nary an incident. I hope this helps you, Christina.

  9. Sarah June 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I live in fear of this very thing happening to me… Not my child being abducted or hurt, when left in a car, but being accused of child endangerment for leaving him for a few minutes!
    Nonetheless, I do so on a regular basis, when weather permits (I live in Ottawa, Canada, and the weather extremes can be dangerous.) I am a single mum, so everywhere I go, other than work, so does my son. He is almost 5, and he LOVES waiting in the car while I run errands in stores, so, being a good mum and knowing the stats (thanks, Lenore!!), I let him, whenever possible. I rarely leave him if I think I’ll be more than about 10 minutes – again, mostly because I’m afraid of someone noticing him, and calling the cops – not because I’m worried about his safety! He sits there happily, singing, reading his books, having some alone time, and NOT being dragged around a store simply because we’ve run out of milk or eggs in the middle of a recipe.
    I am always relieved when I return to the car, and no one is standing outside it, ready to accuse me of endangerment or neglect. And every time I get in the car and ask him if he had a good time – he says ‘yes!’, so I will keep doing it, crossing my fingers that people in my neighbourhood are sane and rational people, every time.

  10. Jeanette June 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    We’ve done this. Our son is 5. Left him to eat his lunch while watching a DVD in the backseat of our SUV with heavily tinted windows. You would have to put your face ON the window to see in. Also left him in there with one of the dogs. Just try to get between a dog & his kid! (we have 3 pit bulls – just imagine those nosey stranger stories!)

  11. Jon June 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    I wrote you in January, when I had something similar happen to me. I *am* a lawyer, but I was dressed like a normal “bro” that day. Came out of the courthouse to the car, where I’d left my daughter, asleep.

    Got a ticket and a whole abusive tirade about how bad of a parent I was from the cops. Had CPS visit my house. CPS called my wife.

    Fortunately, when I got to court, the judge had some choice words for the police, asked me puzzled “wasn’t it cold that day?” and said he didn’t believe in this law. He let me plead no contest for a very nominal fine so I could avoid a trial. (Which would have been vastly less complex than the litigation I do in my day job, but a waste of time nonetheless.)

    The statute in question in California has a ton of subjective elements in it, and has more or less just been read to be “any kid alone in a car.” So, now I’m afraid to even return a shopping cart to a cart corral with my kids in the car. Seriously, if 5 minutes on a day where they’re at a more comfortable temperature in the car than outside it is a ticket, I worry.

    I feel like there’s not much to be done. Anyone who opposes this is dismissed as a kook, a lazy parent, etc.

    This woman would probably be better off going my route and having it over with. But someday, I hope, this gets hit by someone with money and nothing better to do who will fight it tooth and nail in the courts so that it only applies when the kid is in actual danger.

  12. StephL June 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    In many countries in the world, babies in strollers are left outside of stores while parents shop inside. Monsters!

    That said, I don’t think I would have left the car on, but if it was a hot day, A/C is a good idea. My only problem with leaving the car on is that I have heard CO collects under a car that is turned on and left in one place and can get picked up by the ventilation system. (Also who can afford to waste gas?) But I bet that is not what the police’s problem was with this situation….

  13. Dusty June 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    As a father of three, I would never leave my children in a car, running or otherwise. Try this scenario…”Watch me help Dad park”…or, “What does this switch turn on?”… Just what about a four year old “workin” mom so the child can watch a movie that has been viewed a dozen times–because going into Jacques is “so boring”. Big brother bothers me but so does stupidity!

  14. marjorie June 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    This is sickening. I’m so sorry Christina has to go through this, and I hope the case will be dismissed ASAP.

  15. LRH June 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Of course it is perfectly sensible to leave a child alone in the car in specific situations like this. I’ve done so before and will give one of my favorite examples.

    When my son was 1 or so I left him in the vehicle while I went to the post office, where all of our mail is sent & received, and went inside to check for any mail. He was taking his nap at the time and it was cold & rainy. It would have made zero sense to wake him up from a nap & make him cranky, drag him across a street with traffic, and try holding him and the day’s mail at the same time. In fact, I concur leaving him in the car is safer than the alternative would’ve been.

    Further, for someone to say “someone could’ve stolen the car” is blame-shifting. Someone could rape a woman who’s dressed in a mini-skirt or a bikini because of his hormonal reactions, does that mean she’s the cause of it? There are persons who are so into fancy “rims” on a vehicle there have been instances of people being killed over it, does that mean the person was wrong for having nice “rims?” For that matter, are all supposed to drive old 1980s Ford Escort with duct-taped bumpers because thieves can’t help themselves when they see a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz?

    There is no difference in blaming a parent for leaving a child in the car because someone MIGHT have stolen it.


  16. Brenna June 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    In addition to getting a lawyer, she can hope the jury knows about jury nullification – where the jury basically says you’re not guilty because the law is crap (paraphrasing extensively).

    I leave my kids in the car all the time. Small town, and much easier to let them stay and watch a movie than to haul both of them into the grocery store, gas station, etc. We are all MUCH happier this way.

  17. Jet June 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I had a visit out of the blue from CPS when my son was a toddler for a similar incident. I just needed to pop into the convenience store for something. I could see the car through the huge “don’t you dare try to pump and dump” windows in the front of the store, and it was literally a three minute stop.

    The CPS man was very kind, admitted as how my son didn’t appear to be in any way neglected, complimented me on how smart the little guy was, and suggested that — while there’s nothing wrong with what I did — that I avoid doing it in the future because now there was a “file” on me and a second “offense” — for something that even he admitted wasn’t an “offense” — might not go so smoothly.

    Isn’t it amazing that the only thing “bad” that happened was that some busy body called the fuzz on me? My son has survived to the ripe old age of 11, but I’m not convinced he’s going to make it to 12. Does anyone have a barrel I can stuff him in through his teenage years? LOL

  18. Donna June 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I agree with Cara. Hire a lawyer. Even though I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for years, I would hire an attorney to represent me if I were ever charged with anything over minor traffic violations. I wouldn’t represent myself.

  19. jessica June 6, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    the point of free range kids is that you trust your kids to figure out small problems on their own and to allow them the freedom to grow and develop their independence….but leaving a 4 yr old buckled and locked in a running car is not free range .if the car stalls and starts to get hot she cldnt do anything about it, not because she is only four but because she is locked in her carseat !!! i dont know about jail time for a parenting fail but i do not see this as a free range thing at all.

  20. Jan Johnson June 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Honestly…… You are an idiot to leave your kid in the car. I’m a police officer and have taken maybe 10 reports in the last 10 years of people’s cars being stolen with their kid “buckled safely inside” the car watching a movie…. Would you leave ur kid buckled in a stroller in front of a store watching a movie??? Because essentially it is the same thing. Theifs don’t want your kid, they want your car that is running I have stood with horrified parents as helicopters were looking for their cars on the roadway. This happens more than you think……. WAY more frequently than kidnapping (which I will say never happens)

    I normally think people TOTALLY over-react to everything…. O live on the edge with parentig and give my kids tons of freedom, they do wait outside on the bench hem i run into target, or play out front when im in the shower…But leaving a child in a running car is something you need to re-think. It does happen…

  21. Shanon June 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    It is illegal to leave kids unattended in the car on Long Island but I do occasionally still do it. Dropping off dry cleaning, running in to a store to pick up a pizza or prescription. My children are 6 and 4 now but i ve been doing this for a couple of years. After making sure the appropriate heating or cooling system is on The six year old locks the door behind me (there is a safety feature that won’t let me lock it from outside when its running) and is under instructions not to unlock the door for anyone but me or a police officer. As with many other simple daily things like my four year old riding his bike from our house in the middle of the block to the dead end of our street and back i am more afraid of being reported than I am of something bad happening. I’m willing to bet more children get hit by cars in Parking lots walking with their parents back and forth between stores each year than get abducted from them or suffocate in heat. Christina – you are in my thoughts. I hope the judge thinks the law is just as ridiculous as we all do.

  22. Emily June 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    My parents used to leave me alone in the car quite often. However, one time when I was three or so, I moved the gear shift lever after my dad told me not to, from “Park” into “Neutral,” and accidentally made the car coast into a ditch in the Zellers parking lot. The slope in the parking lot was very small, but it was enough for that to happen. My dad was really mad, and I think I might have been banned from waiting in the car alone for maybe a week or so (perceptions of time are fuzzy at that age), but it certainly wasn’t a lifetime ban or anything like that.

  23. LRH June 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Dusty If you are a parent who would never leave your child in a car for whatever reason, that’s fine, but to characterize someone as “stupid” who feel otherwise is short-sighted and, frankly, mean spirited. Yes the scenario you describe can happen, but not all children are like that, and not all vehicles subject to, say, the child putting the gear out of PARK and into REVERSE etc. Many cars require you to press the brake pedal first, which I bet most children wouldn’t know, and besides, some children are better behaved, either via their parenting/personality or both, and not prone to such things.

    And yes, sometimes it’s SAFER for the child to be in a car, or more comfortable, or both. A child, say, in a car when it’s raining or cold etc, I promise you they’d rather be in a car, and if the parking lot has a lot of traffic etc, then the interior of a car is certainly much safer than a busy street where, parental involvement aside, they can be struck by a car.

    All this is is the law overreacting on account of the instances of people doing things which ARE wrong–e.g., leaving a child in a car when it’s hot & there is NO air conditioning and the windows are up & they’re shopping for 3 hours. Obviously that’s reckless, but confusing that with these normal scenarios doesn’t help anybody and, frankly, that’s the real “stupidity.”


  24. Warren June 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    North shore of Lake Ontario. Hot summers, cold winters. My kids and dogs have been keeping each other company in car, the suv, the trucks we have owned, since they were born. 9/10 they want to stay in the vehicle. They don’t want to stand in line being told no to every chocolate bar they point out, Or listening to me getting frustrated with the kid behind the parts counter.

    Unfortunately this is becoming a zero tolerance issue. No common sense, no thinking, just nail our hides to the wall. Though it wouldn’t stop me.

  25. Floyd Stearns June 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Of course this Mom is innocent….she did nothing wrong.
    Please post the outcome, I’m sure we’ll all be standing by.

  26. WhyGee M. June 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    One point that should be brought forward again was why do people feel they need to call the authorities in this situation? If you are truly concerned, wait for a while, watch the children yourself. Why are parents being criminalized for these actions? Why break up families (referring to the stress it has caused) and disrupt any sense of community?

  27. Holly June 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    My son (5) prefers to be left in the car for short errands, and I used to do it until another mother I know was arrested. The idea that it’s safer to drag small, unruly, oblivious, and often unwilling and actively resisting people across a parking lot than leave them sitting in a locked car is absurd and cannot possibly be backed up by statistical evidence.

  28. Nicole June 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    I leave my 5 year old daughter and my 18 month old daughter alone in the car, strapped in their car seats with the windows rolled down, for the 5 minutes that it takes me to run into our dairy, which is in a quiet, rural location. I would probably not leave them in a more crowded location simply because I would not want some “helpful” citizen calling the police. My 5 year old is perfectly capable of telling anyone who asks that her mommy is in the store and will be right back. My mother left me at this age all the time for quick errands. It is a travesty that our country has been reduced to passing such invasive laws. If I wanted to live in a police state where my thinking was done for me by the authorities, I would move to North Korea.

  29. david avery June 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Hello, Los Angeles resident. I routinely leave my 3-year-old son strapped in my car when I dash in to get coffee at 7/11 in the mornings on the way to dropping him off at daycare. He enjoys waiting for me and happily yells my name when I come back out (usually because he knows I’ll bring him a little treat).

    All of the parking is right in front of the store, and I’m never in there for longer than 5 minutes. People always reacted with horror when I tell, even though I routinely point out THERE IS NO LAW AGAINST THIS in CA, and it isn’t unsafe in any sense. He can’t get out, he isn’t in danger of suffocating, and if the car got hit by another he’s just as safe as he would be in an moving accident.

    Best of luck to the mom in question.

  30. LRH June 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Jan Johnson If your response to this issue is going to be “you’re an idiot,” frankly, you’re showing just why it is many people have a resistive and negative attitude towards the police, especially where it regards criticisms over a choice of parenting style. We’re adults and we don’t need to be beat over the head with someone’s opinions, and being a policeman or policewoman doesn’t make it any different. You shouldn’t be insulting the people you’re supposed to be serving. Dealing with the scum of the earth on a daily basis may be frustrating, but that doesn’t mean society at large is obligated to tolerate mean-spirited insults from a self-righteous type of person who happens to wear a badge–ANYBODY, I am not referring to you personally at all.

    I would say the real “idiots,” if that word is to be used, are, again, those who confuse situations like these with the ones of the people getting smashed in a Texas Two Step saloon while their 6 month old waits for 7 hours in a locked car and dirty diapers, the shoppers in the mall leaving their children in a non-air-conditioned car for 2 hours with the windows up to boot. There is no similarity amongst these scenarios, other than the words “child left in a car,” and the “idiots” are the ones who don’t bother to discern the differences amongst the scenarios. They hear the words “child alone in a car” and immediately jump all-in without knowing what they’re jumping all-in about.

    The authorities keep talking about how “parents need to be educated about the dangers of leaving a child in a car.” I think THEY at times need educating–about the differences in a child tortured in the heat for 2 hours while a parent is browsing around for frills vs a child doing just fine in a climate-controlled atmosphere while their parent grabs gas for the car or the mail for the day from the PO box. If you can’t discern the difference, then you have no business being in a position of potentially messing up someone’s family life over it.


  31. Dusty June 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    I’m not saying the person who leaves a child in a car is stupid but that the act of leaving a child in a car is very much subject to question. How many times will it be “ok”? 10 out of 10, sure. 50 out of 50, you bet. But, that one time, when the child moved the gear shift from P to N…some of these responses give me wonder…what’s the hurry? What kind of discipline is involved? There’s a lot more to learn being part of a family team returning merchandise to Jacques than watching Spongee Robert…

  32. Warren June 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Thanks LRH, was going to address Dusty’s misinformed operations of an automatic transmission, or the double function release of a parking brake on a manual tranny.


    The mom was in the store for 15 mins. If the car stallled, and how many cars do you know of just up and stall, for no reason, if it stalled, 15 mins of high summer heat would not do much against the interior temp. as the a/c had already cooled it.

    I do not believe your stats on the stolen vehicles, with babies. There is not a car thief out there that wants kidnapping charges added on to auto theft. If it were a Bentley they may be tempted, but a soccer mom vehicle, with a 4 yr old in it………..they wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole.

  33. Crystal June 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    I have also done the same thing with our 5-year-old. However, because of the fear of some nosy BAD Samaritan calling the cops just like in this story, he knows (and follows this rule explicitly) to stay flat on the floor of our van so no one can see him.

  34. Brenna June 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    @Jan Johnson – yes, it does happen, but so does kids getting struck by lightening, and you really need to take the environment into consideration. I live in a small town. There have been no car thefts there in the past five years, at least. I’m supposed to haul my kids in and out to avoid something that hasn’t happened in five years? Again, NO BLANKET STATEMENTS. Let people use their own judgement.

  35. Haley June 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    I leave my kids in the car for very short errands. Into the dry cleaners, the farm where we get our milk ect. All places the car is never out of my sight. I wouldn’t do anything further this time of year in Texas because I do understand why people might be concerned with it already being in the 90s and I don’t want to deal with any “situation”.

  36. flmom June 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I did this exact same thing ONCE. What happened after a nosey busy-body got involved was so traumatic and stressful for me that I will NEVER do it again. I BARELY escaped being arrested.

  37. Andrea June 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    I leave my kids in the car for up to that amount of time if I run in a store because sometimes they beg me to wait in the car. I live in a cool area of the country so I can lock the car with the windows rolled down. My four year old knows how to undo her seat belt and open the doors and ask people for help if she needs to, and I tell her where she can find me. I am a scientist and most people don’t understand probability and statistics. They literally think that bad guys are waiting on every corner out to get their children. The dangers we face in this country are ever so rare, and kids have never been safer in the history of our species as they are now. I see nothing wrong with what this mother did. My mother certainly did the same with me.

  38. Alicia June 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    While ridiculous, the law is the law in this instance. I don’t believe jail time is the answer. Warning & fine? Then, lets work on changing this law. I live in Michigan.

  39. Dusty June 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    On my way back from lunch today, the temperature was 106. How long does it take a previously cooled car with closed windows to reach a temp where a 4 year old’s health is threatened? Warren, would you like to put your 4 year old in that position? Agreed, that it would be unlikely that a youngster could “accidentally” get a modern automatic from P to N or P to D. But, if you are sure it can’t and if you are sure that anything else, like the theft issue or perhaps, carbon monoxide won’t be an issue, go right on ahead. Kid…button up..we’re goin’ inside…

  40. Susanna June 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    These people who are worried about your kids in the car alone are the same ones that think strangers wait around every aisle in Target waiting to abduct your kids when you take your eyes off of them for a second turning around to get cotton balls with your back to the cart. I think we might have a better chance of convincing them that the kids are safer from abductors and pedophiles locked in the car than in the store with us. At least in the car there’s a barrier between the kid and the criminals lurking everywhere.

    In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court (People v. Jordan), declared unconstitutional part of an Illinois criminal statute on child endagerment. The Illinois statute had provided a “rebuttable presumption that a person committed the offense [of child endangerment] if he or she left a child of six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes.” The Illinois Supreme Court found that to be an “unconstitutional mandatory rebuttable presumption.”

    This site, which says that “ONLY 19 states in the US have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle,” still lists the rebuttable presumption as law, trying to scare people into thinking it’s still written like that in the law books, I suppose.

    I live in Illinois, and I leave my three children (2 of them under 10) in the car alone at least a few times a week. I don’t care what the law is. Come and get me.

  41. Will June 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    I leave my kids in the car when I stop at an ATM. Sometimes when I go into the bank, if I have all three of them. I’ve left them in the car to run into the store to get a gallon of milk. This morning, they all wanted to go get in the car before I was ready to leave. They all did. They all got hot. They all got out. They all played in the front yard.

    Once the temp hits 95, I generally stop doing that. We’ll go after sundown, or early in the morning, for errands that I need to take the kids, but they want to stay in the car.

    So. The question is one of endangerment. Prove to me that a locked car, in good repair, with the A/C running, is endangerment of a child.

    Dusty, no one can be sure that a kidnapper won’t break into my home in the middle of the night and snatch away one of my kids while I’m sleeping. In fact, a sufficiently motivated kidnapper could probably do so easily. But all the stuff you list, it’s not common in modern cars kept in good repair. You’re jumping at shadows. And are clearly exactly the kind of “for the children” type who supports laws criminalizing good parents.

  42. Dusty June 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    One other comment…back in my Montana days, I went into the Saloon in Kalispell. First time at that bar, and, there were about as many children there as adults. When I asked the beertender why, she responded that since it was 21 degree below zero, that they were better off inside–regardless of the “bar” environment. A previous comment–get a lawyer–well taken. And, if Michigan folks don’t like that law–change it. And, for the learned statisticians in the forum, if it can happen, it will. And, I’ll take that bet…

  43. Jon Daley June 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    The issue isn’t really whether the car is on or not, or the windows open or closed, because “helpful” people will come along and complain in any case.

    The last time it happened to me, as I was clearly ignoring her, though I said “thank you”, she said, “I’m going to vomit”, as apparently, my transgression was so unbelievable to her. Fortunately, the police officer that responded didn’t agree with her, and told her to go away. The officer did say that I should probably not do that, though she didn’t know if there was any law that I had broken. She also agreed that my nine year old was probably fine in the car.

    It irritates me that we can be harassed by the public and by the police, since they have to respond and check things out when called.

    To the person with the pit bull in the car – of course, then they will call the police for the bad person who left their dog in the car…

  44. Gina June 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    I live in Scottsdale, and while i would not worry about kidnapping, I WOULD worry that the car may stall out and the a/c would go off. Where I live, that would be a fatal situation in under 5 minutes. Also, I teach preschool and most 4-year-olds I know can buckle and unbuckle a carseat/seatbelt but are not savvy as to car operation; I would worry about an accidental gear shift.
    That said, I do not think this is a criminal matter.

  45. North of 49 June 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    I’ve been “leaving my kids in the car to wait for me” for years. Nothing has ever happened.

    Quick run into the sev for slurpees? 10 minutes to get them all out of their car seats, or 3 minutes of mom running in, grabbing what is needed and back out. No problem. I can see them the entire time I look out the big window.

    Earlier this week, my 10 year old did not want to go into Walmart, so we offered the choice of waiting in the car. Nothing happened and we were in there for a good 20-30 minutes. He just happily played on my tablet and spent the time being alone.

    The entire “leaving the child alone in the car is bad” is if it is an infant who can’t get out. Those are horrific accidents. New parents are often sleep deprived at best and they can forget.

  46. Bobby Mc Hone June 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I went through that about a year ago picking up my aunt from Union Station in DC. She was visiting us for the holidays & I had my 2 kids with me (6 months & 5 yr old). Both had fallen fast asleep I didn’t see why I should wake them up just to run in & get her. She was hard to find & elderly so it took her a while to get back to the car & as we’re walking back I could see a comotion by my vehicle. I did illegally park too because it was so crowded so I thought that was the issue but it was the kids in the car. They told me that same ridiculous story about someone stealing my car car even though it was locked. I told them I know we’re in DC but it’s Union Station on a holiday crawling with probably 6 different police departments. I can’t think of a safer place I could be in the whole DC area right then. They didn’t accept my point of view and kept calling different police departments to talk to me. Seems they weren’t sure if the DC police or the Capitol police or transit police or myriad others should be the ones to deal with me. In the end they gave me some stern warnings as I bit my tongue because even though I feel I did nothing wrong, I don’t need the added hassles/waste of time defending myself against child neglect charges. My advice is do what you want but try to “fly under the radar” because unless you have “deep pockets” or are a lawyer or someone who has lots of free time to defennd yourself, it’s not worth the hassle dealing with what they can do to complicate your life even if you’re doing nothing wrong. Sad.

  47. Warren June 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Son, you are barking at the wrong guy. I have left my 4 year old in that exact situation. In my 30 + years of vehicle ownership not once have I had one I left idiling stall. Not once. And in my line of work, my service truck spends just as much time idiling as it does running down the road, probably more than driving.

    And again, unless you are one short little bugger youself, there is noway a 4 year old can get an automatic out of park. They are not tall enough to apply the brake, and shift gears, not to foget most consoles need the released depressed on the shifter.

    As for theft, lets ask the lawyers the difference in sentences for auto theft and kidnapping?

  48. Donna June 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    “I’m a police officer and have taken maybe 10 reports in the last 10 years of people’s cars being stolen with their kid “buckled safely inside” the car watching a movie…”

    Hmmm, MAYBE 10 reports in the last 10 years? That means this has happened, at most, an average of once per year. Not exactly a major crime wave.

    And of these cases, how many resulted in anything other than the kids, and maybe even the car, being abandoned within a short distance? Not to discount being stolen with a car. I’m sure the kids were scared to death if they understood what was happening (ie not infants). But they likely weren’t harmed in any way because most car thieves aren’t looking to add kidnapping and murder to their criminal history. In my state, that is a difference between a year or two in prison and 30 years in prison and life on the sex offender registry (any kidnapping of an unrelated child gets you on the sex offender registry regardless of facts).

  49. Faith June 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    I have followed your site for years, but I think leaving a 4 year old in a running car for that long is dangerous. I won’t be following this site anymore.

  50. Mark June 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    > ac on

    I can’t be entirely sympathetic about this. I don’t know what things are like in Michigan, but around here, a car left with the engine running is a magnet for car thieves. Sure, it’s not likely that one will be passing by during those 15 minutes, but a one in ten thousand chance of being the victim of an accidental kidnapping is higher than I’d be willing to risk.

  51. Dusty June 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Not barking, Warren…but, when my kids were 4, I had to put wooden clothes pins on the fuel line in the summer to keep it cool! In my 56 years of vehicle ownership, I’ve seen plenty of heartbreaks evolve from situations that just couldn’t have happened but did. There has to be some reason lawmakers think leaving kids/dogs/gerbils in a locked, running car is not what should be done. Dealers choice, then.

  52. Merissa Pierson June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Well I can’t comment on my own children, because I don’t have any, but I can say that my mother did it all the time with me, my brother, and my sister.

    I’m 25 years old now, my brother is 29, and my sister is 27, and NONE of us were ever kidnapped, the car was never broken into, and no one died of heat stroke or hypothermia. And this is in the days before your vehicle could had remote starts where you could lock the car AND keep it on without the keys. So yes, we, the children, were left in there with the keys in the ignition for the a/c and no we didn’t go on any joy rides, because my mother was a good one and she had taught us common enough sense that we’re too young to try driving a car.

    She never left us in the car if she felt it would be dangerous because of the neighborhood or temperature, but she also didn’t make us get out for no reason whenever we didn’t want to go in and she didn’t need us making things take longer and be harder on her and us.

  53. Talyn June 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    I left my 3 year old asleep in the car while I walked up to the school to get my five year old. I opened all of the windows as the weather was just warm enough that it might get uncomfortable in the car. I came back and, as expected, he was still fast asleep and the temperature in the car was comfortable.

    P.S. If the school let my kindergartner walk 100 yards, I wouldn’t have had to do that. But as it is, I am required to show my face at her door to get her.

  54. Jen Connelly June 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    We leave our kids in the car all the time now. I don’t worry because the older ones are, well, older so I think there’s less chance someone is going to complain. The first time we left them after we moved here they were 10, 8 1/2, 7 1/2, 4 and 1 month old. We needed to go to two separate stores in the same shopping complex so we parked between them.

    My oldest asked if it was safe to stay in the car, couldn’t someone steal it?

    I just laughed. What thief in their right mind would steal a truck filled with kids? Once she thought of it that way she was fine. I still didn’t know how free-range things are out here so I hurried and worried the whole time but no one cared that they were in the car with all the windows down (it was summer but in the evening after it was cooling off).

    Now we do it all the time without even thinking. So do a lot of people around here. Then again I see kids in the stores by themselves all the time. My 7yo goes with her 11yo brother to the store a mile away to spend their little bit of cash they have–nobody cares.

  55. nicol June 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    seriously – all of this is crazy! you shop alone when you are single, not a parent. is it more convenient, when you come out to a stolen kid, or worse? a dead kid? take responsibility & be a parent. parent hood is not meant to be convenient.

  56. Eileen June 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Definitely an interesting discussion and has made me think.

    My kids are big so it’s not going to be an issue for me but I never did leave them in a car. I guess there is just something about not being willing to leave them home alone but willing to lock/restrain them in a car seems…odd. I’m not sure that’s “free range” anyway. It’s locked confinement.

    When my kids were of an age that they weren’t interested in going into stores/restaurants or created a hassle, I just didn’t bother to do that with them until they got to a different stage.

    Good luck to the Mom.

  57. Warren June 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    If you had to result to those old tricks, then you should have spent the money to keep your car maintained.

    Are you really that dense that you cannot see the difference between leaving a child in the car to run an errand, and leaving a child in the car while you play bingo?

    And if you want to trust the lawmakers implicitly, then god help you when they turn on you.

  58. LRothman June 6, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    When my kids were little, I would travel to visit relatives. When it was 11pm and I pulled into a gas station to use the restroom or buy coffee, I didn’t wake them up. I would lock them in the car. I did this from the time the oldest was about 4.

  59. Casey June 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    The thing that makes me so sad is that the very vast majority of people who follow these rules do so because they are afraid of being reported, not because they genuinely feel it is unsafe.

    The other day I asked my husband if there was anywhere we could move to to get away from all this litigious idiocy. He suggested a third world country might work, but we don’t want to do that because then we would have real things to fear. Is it just in our genetic makeup as a species to live in fear maybe? — even if that fear has to be manufactured?

  60. Christine June 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    I just wanted to chime in as well, my four year old son HATES shopping, especially errands and days where we have to make lots of small stops. He begs to stay in the car, and we often let him, if the environment is condusive to that (not to hot, not going to be too long, etc). He plays with my phone or listens to music. He has been told what to do if someone knocks on the door. It makes everyone happier, and he is in no real danger.

    I am sick of families being attacked for “potential” dangers, when nothing has even happened. The fallout if something bad were to have happened scares me even more. I HATE that I am more comfortable leaving in the vehicle with tinted windows JUST because it reduces that chances of him being seen by someone.

    It screws with people’s reality. The only real fear around kids in cars is heat (or cold), and my kids know if its too hot, they can’t stay, heck they dont want to stay when its that hot. But that message is lost somewhere along the way and we have lost our ability to assess what “real danger” is. BAH

  61. MHM June 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    We as parents need to be aware of the laws in our states. Especially since they are making many things that are normal not legal. I live in California. Where it is illegal to let my children stay in a Running car under the age of 12. If they car is off they are fine. I know it’s crazy, but we Free Rangers must remember that when we choose to do something we need to know our legal rights, so we can stand up for them and anticipate problems.

    I have left my kids in the car when I needed to run in to the story before. When I needed to pay for gas. Always tried to keep the car in view just in case there was an issue. I could solve it quickly (never was one).

  62. Tammy June 6, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I don’t mind the laws, but let’s make them reasonable, like making it illegal to leave kids under 16 locked in a car when the outside temperature is higher than 85 degrees. And let’s not make it a child endangerment issue. We’re making an enemy out of CPS and making it so that they don’t have time to investigate cases of real abuse. Make it a vehicular violation and points on the license. That’s more likely to get people’s attention anyway.

    I left my kids in the car a few weeks ago. I live in a small town. I parked my car on one side of a one-way street and ran in to a cafe to grab some chili, to go. I was gone perhaps five minutes. No need to wake a sleeping baby when I was able to watch the car the entire time.

    As I exited, I was approached by a police officer. My heart sank. He had observed everything. He looked at me, looked at my kids in the car, and told me that he was citing me for an expired inspection sticker. And he was reducing the fine, as the vehicle was not in motion at the time of the citation.

    There are lots of people out there who still use common sense, folks.

  63. Ed Cayce June 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    I am totally in support ot Free Range Kids. However, leaving kids in a closed up, running car is just not a good idea. Several people have mentioned that cars do stall. Also, kids do get out of their buckled up seats and play with the controls. I’ts not out of whack. Also, ref this story where a mom left her child in a car (for too long) in the cold with the heater turned on, and the kid overheated. This is in wintertime.
    It doesn’t really matter that she was having sex or whatever the point is that a closed up car is a real problem. Now, car turned off, windows down is another thing.

  64. Warren June 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    How is the air up there on your soap box?

  65. Eileen June 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    I’m wondering what parents that leave/lock kids in their car would do if they observed a child locked/restrained in a car. Do you presume that the parent is aware and will return shortly or do you wait?

    It’s a rather unusual thing to witness and I don’t think I could walk away. Given that you read about children suffering/dying unattended cars every year (yes it’s rare), I don’t think I could walk away.

    Does it take a village…or to each’s own?

    I’m just wondering about the necessity of some of this. Some of the examples are slurpees/coffee/dining to go. My “free range parents” would never have been indulging in those kind of things to begin with.

  66. SKL June 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    I do leave my kids in the car in limited circumstances, after considering the risks. I started doing it for very brief periods (i.e., to run in and buy a coffee while I could see the car through the window) when my kids were maybe 3 or 4. Now they are 6, and I will do it for a longer time. Not sure about 15 minutes, only because you don’t know what other people will do – including calling the cops. I don’t leave my car running because I lock the car and take the keys with me. If there’s any chance of them overheating in the car, I bring them with me. I have enough sense to figure that out.

    A couple of weeks ago, it was hot and sunny out but I wanted to run in and get a sandwich at Panera for the kids to eat on the road. I had been running the AC. I left the kids locked in the car (with everything off) and went in to order. Because the service wasn’t very fast, I made a trip outside to turn the AC back on for a few minutes while the food was being prepared. Nobody died! It’s amazing what a few brain cells in a mother’s head will do.

    To this lady, I would recommend that she focus on all the things she did that show she is a conscientious and loving mom. She was responsive to her kids, she knows their maturity, they were in child restraints according to law, she parked in a safe place, she left the AC on so they could not overheat, she left the door locked so nobody could get in. It seems to me that if a parent appears to be very conscientious, things will go better. I agree that hiring lawyer is a good idea if she can afford it.

  67. LadyTL June 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    My worry is if people keep acting like this sort of thing is wrong, at what age will they put a cap on it? Already 14 and 15 year olds are being classed as children and treated as if they are 4 or 5 in alot of legal issues. Will it be made illegal for a teen to stay in a car by themselves? What about an adult? We have already seen that many people will turn slippery slopes into reality as long as someone claims “as long as it will save one child”, what makes people think that won’t happen with these oversteps of authority?

  68. Warren June 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Your link to an example story is irrelevant. That mom was neglectful, and it was for over 2 HOURS.
    The mom here was gone 15 mins. That is a helluva difference.

    If I see a kid in a car, and there is no reason to suspect any risk, then yes I walk away. It is that easy.
    As for the necessity of things, it is called life, and you do not give it up, just because you have kids.

  69. SKL June 6, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Eileen, I don’t really care what your parents would have indulged in. My mom didn’t even have a driver’s license when I was little. That’s irrelevant. If I’m rushing in for a coffee or sandwich, it’s because my life with my kids is busy and exhausting, not because all I care about is my caramel latte. (Though, if I happen to like my caramel latte, there are worse things!)

  70. Eileen June 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    My point was that often on this site, people talk about how prior generations were raised and the freedoms allowed. Along with that, my parents didn’t drag me around and pop into pick up coffee or other non-necessities.

    @warren, clearly you don’t give up on life as a parent, but when you have children, your life does not continue in the exact same manner. Just as mine has evolved again into much more free time now that my kids are HS/College age.

    I guess my general thought is that if a child shouldn’t be left at home alone unsupervised, I wouldn’t chose to leave them in a car unsupervised, even if I could restrain them or lock them in. Never with a running car for sure.

  71. Alicia June 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    mama, get a lawyer. esp if you think the judge is going to make an example of you?

  72. Erica June 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    I’ll be honest… I think 4 is a little young for that, especially in a running car. I wouldn’t leave my car running (without my child inside) while I ran into a store, so I probably wouldn’t do it with them in the car either. My 4 year olds can’t undo their carseat straps on their own. I wouldn’t leave a child who couldn’t get themselves OUT of the car, should an emergency arise.

    I’d actually be more ok with it in temperate weather, with the car off and keys in MY possession than I would with the car on. (But even still, personally, I’ll wait until my kids are big enough to get themselves out if necessary before they can stay alone for a few minutes.)

  73. JJ June 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    “take responsibility & be a parent. parent hood is not meant to be convenient.”

    Here we go again with the Most Inconvenieced Mom contest. Whether its leaving your kid in the car for a few minutes, using a stroller sometimes v. handling your child 100% of the time, put your kid in daycare while you work, or letting your kid have processed food. Whoevers life is made most inconvenient by their kids wins.

  74. Amy June 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    When my kids were younger I frequently left them in the car while I ran a quick errand. (I live in LA.) Where I live the weather is very mild so I never had to worry about them getting too hot or too cold. I would run into pick up lunch, or drop off dry cleaning or grab some milk, any errand of that kind that would not take too long. The longest time was at a drugstore when the prescription was not ready as expected and I had to wait 10 or so minutes. I did this starting from when my younger one was a baby. Do you know how long it would take to get an infant and a 1 year old unbuckled from car seat, strollers unfolded and kids packed back in strollers–just to spend 5 minutes in store and then have to do it all again in reverse? Total waste of time, especially when one or more them was sleeping. I will admit to feeling nervous inside the store if my errand took longer than usual–but the fear was that some person would call CPS, not that anything would happen to the kids.
    My kids are older now, and I still leave them frequently, and they are shockingly, still alive.

  75. LRH June 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    nicol “Parenting is not meant to be convenient.” Your statement is exactly what is wrong with a lot of the busy-bodies. Who says convenience is irrelevant? Basically that’s exactly the idea–parenting MUST be hard, laborus, tiresome, exhausting, and requiring one to do nothing else 24/7 else you’re not doing it right.

    That is to say: just because parenting isn’t meant to be convenient doesn’t mean it’s meant to be INCONVENIENT either. Convenience matters. Yes, even where it regards parenting, yes–convenience matters.

    I make no apologies for how, for instance, when they were the age to need car seats (all they need now are booster seats), my priority was the car seat which was the easiest to buckle & unbuckle, NOT which was safest. I figure even the “worst” of them are still plenty safe, what with all the regulations etc. I couldn’t stand the 3-point harness models, they were a MONSTER to buckle & unbuckle.

    Naturally, of course, the store clerks really pushed those, and when I said I wanted the ones which were the easiest to buckle, it was as if I was saying I intended to sell my kid on the black market. It’s ridiculous.

    In like manner, when my kids were infants, I rejected–nicely–any overalls types of outfits, because they made it harder to change their diapers. Most people seemed only to care how cute they were, I told them “I don’t care, it gets in the way of changing their diaper, I want it as EASY as possible.” You could’ve heard a pin drop.

    So many “parenting Pharisees,” so few places for them to go live amongst themselves so they can leave us alone.


  76. SKL June 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Eileen, my dad left us in the car all the time when we were little. They didn’t have Starbucks in those days (not that he could have afforded it), but they did have to physically go to the bank to cash their paychecks every week and a lot of other things we don’t have to bother with nowadays. So what? So if a kid is left in the car while Dad runs in to the bank, its a safer situation than if a kid is left so Mom can grab a coffee? Keep your personal family values bias out of this discussion, please.

  77. Betty June 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Last year I left my 2 daughters(8yr, 6yr) in the car to run into Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up a bottle of cleaner at about 930AM. My youngest was sleeping and my oldest was reading a book. She asked to be left in the car so she can continue reading and little sis can continue her nap. I parked right in front of the store entrance and left the windows rolled down about 2inches, & doors locked. I gave her the permission to come out if/when they BOTH decide to join me in the store or if there was a problem.

    Within 5 minutes in the store the store clerk approached me and asked if it was my children in the car and had asked me to leave the store because I left my kids in the car! I was in shocked!!! Clerk said a lady had informed them that the kids were in there and she felt it was irresponsible for me and for the store to continue to allow me to shop in there. I could not believe I was asked to leave.

    When both my girls were younger, both asleep in the car at the same time…I was told I can not leave one in the car while I bring the other one into my home. Seriously?!? I have to sit in front of my house until they wake or chose to wake them mid-nap just to walk that 20ft. into the house??? It just doesn’t make sense!

  78. SKL June 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    PS, if you think coffee is not a necessity, I invite you to come visit me bright and early some morning. Or ask my kids what mommy’s like without her elixir. Ha! 😉

  79. SKL June 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Personally, I did not leave my babies in the car, sleeping or not, because they would have freaked if they found themselves alone. Once they were able to understand my explanation of where I was going and for how long, then I could do it. Even now I think they would be upset if they woke up alone in the car. Maybe that’s just my kids, I don’t know.

  80. f June 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    I think criminal charges are ridiculous here.

    However, I agree with Erica — four seems a little young to me. I would want a child to be able to get out of the car in an emergency, and also have the good sense to stay in there unless there actually *was* an emergency. I can just see my four year old getting bored, unbuckling herself (she can do it, but not reliably), and wandering through a large department store looking for me, leaving the car unlocked and running.

    I have left her to run a two minute errand (dry cleaning, ATM), where I can see the car and it is off and locked. But I would not leave her in the situation in the posting until she is older.

  81. Eileen June 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    The entire thread is about personal values SKL. This website would cease to exist if people weren’t discussing their personal values and decision making.

    This whole discussion (as are many) has to do with how much risk you are willing to take in regards to your children or how you view risk. For this particular discussion, it’s how much exposure to a legal situation as well.

  82. hineata June 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    I have on occasion left my pre-schoolers in the van while getting fish and chips etc. ducking out to check on them periodically. And all the time at the garage. Where I live no one would drag kids out of the car while paying for petrol, as the forecourt at a petrol station is way more dangerous than the interior of a car. That said, we do not usually have extremes of temperature, so there’s no need to keep cars running, which is something I confess I don’t really understand. Maybe in really cold weather, (although with my sucky cars I’d be worried about carbon monoxide) but in hot weather, wouldn’t it be better to leave the windows down? Each to their own, though – you know your own conditions.

    I am not sure why kids over 6 being left in cars is any issue at all, though. A six year old should have a brain, and isn’t in a carseat anyway, so should be able to get themselves out if there’s any issues. Can’t believe one of the above posters had busybodies interfering over a nine year old.

    @Warren – do you only drive premium vehicles? Most of the cars my dad ever drove were kept going with tricks like Dusty’s. Certainly nobody wasted money on maintaining cheap vehicles – home maintenance was the way to go. Not so much now, of course, with all the electronics. Maybe Canada has always had fleets of super vehicles worth spending big bucks maintaining, but such was not the case here until quite recently….

    @Dusty – go, mate! I miss the days our backyard looked like a junk shop. We were a three car family, two on blocks being stripped to keep the third one going :-) Nothing like a car on blocks for playing in.

  83. Anise June 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I’m surprised by all the rage at “busybodies” who see a child alone in a car and call authorities. I agree that the law should not be so crazy when it comes to pressing charges or calling CPS if no harm comes to the child and it turns out, in fact, yes — Mom or Dad was just running in for the dry cleaning. But God forbid someone left a child in the car and something happened to THEM (no one seems to account for this possibility), and everyone just walked by assuming it wasn’t their business. And how long are these (well-meaning) strangers supposed to stand around waiting to see if an adult returns? If someone calls for police and they get there before you’ve returned to your car…it seems to me you were probably gone too long. Best to run the errands at a time when your spouse or a friend can watch the children at home.

  84. Miriam June 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I have 3 kids, 2 and younger. My older daughter is 2.5 and my twins are 16 months. You can imagine the hassle it is to get three kids in and out of their car seats for every.single.errand. I currently don’t leave them in the car to run into the store because they really are still too young, but I plan to as they get older and understand that I will be back very soon and am not abandoning them. As it is I regularly leave them in the car to run back into the house and get something I’ve forgotten. I even leave the van doors OPEN so I know they are getting air. We live in a busy apartment complex in a safe neighborhood and I am not afraid. I also leave them to run into the gas station to pay for gas in cash. I’ve left them in the car to pick things up from the dry cleaners or my seamstress. I have great memories of being left in the car with my siblings as a kid-yes both hot summer and freezing winter. We had fun, players around with the turn signals and generally pokes and bothered each other till my mom came back. I’ve never heard of a child being abducted from a parked car, have you?

  85. Rachel June 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    What if someone broke into the car while mom was inside it? What if he was big and strong or had a gun? Then what?
    That’s about as likely to happen as a bad guy breaking into a locked car with a toddler inside. You think car thieves WANT to deal with a child? You think the car they’re hot for is the mom-mobile complete with kid? Hardly.
    Maybe we’re all bad parents for venturing outside our homes without military backup! Maybe we’re all bad parents for even HAVING children in the first place because there’s no way to keep them totally safe!
    This is a bad law, predicated on primal and sensationalized fears, not realistic ones.

  86. Jocelyne June 6, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Add me to the list of moms who has left her kids in the car alone. I generally lock the doors. But for years my eight year old has preferred to stay in the car and read his book instead of being dragged into the store to buy milk. They both often stay in the car while I pick up dinner or drop things off at a friend’s house.

    I would be aware of temperature and of neighbourhood. But I really think we are shortchanging kids. If they are old enough to walk to school on their own, surely they can be trusted to sit in a car and read a book for fifteen minutes?

  87. Erica June 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Yup, my four-year-old loves to be left in the car, and I did it again today. It’s a mild day, I had the windows down and she had her Leapfrog device and was happy as a lark in there while I ran errands. In California you may not leave a child younger than 6 in a car that may be construed as a “dangerous situation” — or something like that. But it’s worth it to break the law a little bit rather than drag a cranky, reluctant girl around.

  88. April June 6, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    I have left my five and two year old boys in the car, doors locked for five minutes while I run into the grocery store. I see no problem with it. If, however, a concerned citizen sees a child unattended in a car and is concerned for some reason, the rational thing to do would be to stay near the car until the parent returns, not call the police (assuming, of course, the child is conscious, doesn’t appear to be overheated or otherwise in need of immediate medical attention.). I just wish so many people’s first reaction to things like this weren’t so extreme.

  89. Danielle June 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    This past year my husband left our two boys in the car to buy bread and milk. We were reported and investigated by the police and social services. Luckily we did not face criminal charges. We always leave them locked in the car and they are happier to wait there than run around in the grocery store. Despite what happened I still leave them in the car and only hope we don’t get reported again. I find it crazy that we are unable to do this in our own country – Canada but I can choose to endanger my child by traveling to third world countries. While traveling we ride chicken buses, ride in taxis with no seat belt, among other “dangerous things.”

  90. SKL June 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    I agree with April. Yes, there are times when concern might be warranted. One could use one’s brain cells to determine when, instead of a knee-jerk reaction. Babies die in non-moving vehicles under only very specific and rare circumstances. I don’t think it’s ever happened to kids as old as the ones in this story, and certainly not due to heat when the AC is running. You can tell by looking whether the kids in a car are hot. Come on. But if you really believe there could be danger, look for the mom. Would these people want the cops called on them for every action that raised eyebrows in the community? The last time I had the cops called on me – because I came back and admitted to hitting someone’s mailbox (with my car) – it was a massive pain in the butt, even though nobody was remotely in danger and I was begging to let me just pay them to replace their mailbox. Cops mean intimidation, fear, hassle, and a lot of wasted time and money. Wouldn’t you rather the cops spent their time solving actual problems?

  91. SKL June 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Oh and considering that kids that age are more likely to die in a moving vehicle accident than any other way, why don’t people call the cops every time they see someone driving with their kid in the car? Let’s be consistent here.

  92. Rose ASL June 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Let me say initially that I feel this was an unwise thing to do, for most of the reasons people have mentioned: Cars stalling, kids climbing around, carbon monoxide poisoning if something went wrong. I would be a lot more concerned about leaving my kids in a running car they could potentially put into gear than about some piece of crap trying to kidnap them.

    Having said that, I do have a huge problem with the mentality that you call the police when a child is alone instead of looking for the parents. I went to the bank once when my two boys were infant and toddler. I am prone to heat sickness and was already feeling unwell. It was an abominably hot day. Rather than pull them out one more time in 100 degree heat and drag them across the parking lot just to get the deposit slip I needed (it was a supermarket bank so no drive thru), I parked in front and left the AC on while I ran in to get the slip. I saw a woman giving me a dirty look as I ran in, and sure enough when I got back out she was calling 911 to report that I left my kids in the car. I yelled at her and then sat there in the car filling it out, which I really didn’t need to do, just to show her that she couldn’t intimidate me. She said someone could have jumped in my car and driven off. I was too angry and heatsick at the time to find the words, but I wanted to tell her that she was the only person close enough to my car to have driven it off before I returned, and if she was so concerned she could have simply watched for a minute to make sure no one did. Instead I just called her a freak and told her to f*** off. Whatever. We can’t all be angels. That’s the only time I left the kids in the car when I couldn’t see them, although my oldest is now 8 and I sometimes allow him to stay in the car if I know I’ll be quick. Not with it running, however. Still, no doubt there is some controlling turd out there somewhere who would think they had a right to intervene.

  93. SKL June 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Or you know what’s really stupid? There’s this woman in my neighborhood who goes jogging at rush hour along a busy, narrow road with no sidewalk – with a wide stroller holding three kids! WTH? Why isn’t someone calling the cops on her? Why because she’s *right there*, for all the damn good it’s going to do when some vehicle hits the stroller or throws up a rock into her baby’s face. :/

  94. Kori June 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    I routinely leave my kids (8, 6, 5 and 3) in the car to run a quick errand. But, I’m sorry, I would not leave a four year old in a running car on a hot day – especially if she could not get herself out in an emergency. Also, you should ALWAYS check the laws of the state you are in to find out if leaving kids unattended is a criminal offense. Where I live, it isn’t as long as you can prove that the kid in question has good judgement. I think very few (even mature) four year olds have good judgement.

    Do I think this mom should be criminally prosecuted? 100% not. But do I think she used poor judgement? I’m sorry to say that I do.

  95. Emily June 6, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    @Dusty–I did learn something after the gear shift incident when I was three. I learned that cars could be dangerous, and all of those cool buttons and levers and pedals and whatnot actually DO things, so playing with them at random can be dangerous.

  96. mags June 6, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    In my very humble opinion, plea should be not guilty and make sure you have a good attorney.

  97. mags June 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    No, notes on a blog can not be considered evidence but notes on a blog may help Christina’s attorney to help formulate a defense.

    Perhaps, said attorney might be able to ask for an adjournment until more info is obtained.

  98. SKL June 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Did people notice that this wasn’t a 4yo left alone, but a 7yo and a 4yo left together? Big difference in my opinion!

  99. SKL June 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    OK, on second thought, maybe I’m the one who read it wrong – it does not say the 7yo was there. In that case, I could see this being gray area for raising concern, but under the circumstances I don’t think it rises to the level of child neglect. Almost anything that could happen to a child in that car in 15 minutes could happen in a house, where people leave their 4yos unrestrained and unsupervised all night long.

  100. Ashley June 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    I’m really sorry it’s come to this… but please accept that it is happening, you are being arraigned, and you need to get a lawyer. It’s crazy that this is happening at all, so it should come as no surprise if something equally crazy happens at your arraignment. GET A LAWYER!

  101. Violet June 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I was an assistant public defender and represented more than one parent on utterly ridiculous charges of neglect or abuse. She needs a lawyer. If she cannot afford an attorney, she must ask for a public defender. She should also know that PD’s work in the same courtroom with the same judge and prosecutor and can often get a better result that private attorneys.

  102. Melissa June 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    If you think your young children can’t put a car into gear when they have access to a key, think again. I was outside my car talking to my neighbor, and my son grabbed my keys. Him and his little brother (6 and 4) at the time, went into the car. The younger one sat on the floor to work the floor peddles. The older one sat on the seat the control the steering wheel. The older one put the key into the ignition, and turned it. Then while the younger one pushed in the break peddle with his hands, the older one shifted the car into neutral. The car started to roll backwards into the street.

    If at least one child is above the age of 10, I don’t see a problem with leaving a child in a car when the car is not running. Put the windows down, so the kids can get fresh air.

    But seeing a car running with small children in the car freaks me out, and under those circumstances I will call the police. Call me a busybody, but I don’t care. A running car in the hands of a child who is not properly trained in using a car is a deadly weapon that can kill people. And don’t say “My child is not smart enough to figure out how to make a car move” — really? I thought you were “free range” that believed that kids were smart, and that they had the brains to figure things out.

    And I don’t buy the excuse “my child is too smart to do something that dumb” Do you know how many times parents have to visit the emergency room each year, because their child was “too smart to do something that dumb”? Plenty. Kids are kids and even the smartest child can act dumb sometimes.

    As other have said, I don’t think leaving a child in a running car for a short period of time is a criminal activity, but I do think that the person should have to appear before a judge and pay a fine.

  103. TaraK June 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I’ve left my 4 kids in the car numerous times while I went in to pay for gas, pick up a pizza or whatever until the kids were old enough to go pay for the gas or run in to pick up the pizza!

  104. Melissa June 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Want another example? A mother in Bridgeport, CT several years back stepped out of her running car to ask somebody for directions. Her son went into the driver’s seat, and put the car into gear. The car was on a hill that ended in a lake. The mother tried to jump into the car to stop the car, but she could not. The car rolled into the lake, and all 4 children and the other died of drowning.

    Kids in running cars are a bad combination. It is just too easy for somebody to get hurt.

  105. Jenn June 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    When I was four (more than three decades ago), my dad left me in the car while he ran into a shop. He parked right in front of the shop so he could see me as he went in. I sat happily in the front seat (as you did and without a car seat or even seat belts!) and got curious. Well, I somehow put the car into reverse and it rolled out of its parking spot and into a parked car! I remember being panicked that my dad would find out, especially when I couldn’t figure out how to stop the car, and then when I crashed it. I think my dad was more upset that my mom would get mad at him! The car’s bumper was smashed as well as the car I hit. Thank goodness it didn’t go on my driving record! Guess what? I leave my kids in my car when I go into a shop but I’ve learned from that experience. My kids have to stay in the back seat. To kill their curiosity about playing in the front seat, I told them about what happend to me when I was a kid and they have never tried playing with the car when I’ve left them alone (but when we are at home, they have played in the car, with the keys safe in the house!). I think my dad has a history of young driving accidents because he backed the family car into the garage when he was 12!

  106. William C Bonner June 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    In Washington State I believe that it’s illegal to leave an unattended car running.

  107. zinkemom June 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    This scares me as I live in Michigan as well. I have been leaving my b/g twins in the car since they were just a few weeks old. We lived quite a distance from town and only grocery shopped once a week. That meant I had to buy 4 gallons of milk at a time. If I bought it at the grocery store it was $3.99 a gallon. If I bought it at the convenience store on the way home it was $2.29 or less. That was a no brainer to me for the amount I needed. It was quicker for me to run in and grab 4 gallons of milk and back out to the car than it was to unstrap both kids, attempt to carry them in (no carts there) and then make 4, yes 4 trips back out to the van to carry all the milk. I never did it when it was so hot that I couldn’t leave the car off and windows down in the summer. ( I had a car once that the a/c would overheat if the car was idling and start pumping hot air into the car so now I never leave the a/c on when idling unless I am in it.) Luckily they were fall babies so we always needed the heat at that age. They are 8.5 now and still stay in the car when I do quicky errands. They get upset that I won’t let them stay in the car for Walmart trips but I know how easy it is to get distracted in there. They are now 8.5 years old and have been staying home alone for over a year while I drive the mile to the store for milk and bread, return the redbox movie, etc. Each trip is on a case by case basis based on how well they are behaving and getting along that day. Some days they have to go with me. :)

  108. del June 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    I would LOVE to leave my kids in the car MORE often, but am honestly afraid that CPS will end up standing next to it when I do errands further from the car.

    Our Old Home Bread Store that I could easily watch for ‘helpful citizens’ through the window and dash back out if I needed to (I haven’t had to) is closing (BOOOOOO!! Another stop I’ll probably have to cart them in for!)

    And I’ve had a few people eye me when I run into Tractor Supply and left kids in the car, but since it’s only a quick dash for chicken feed or whatever, I’m usually back out before they make up their minds what to do about it.

    Seriously? Why is it safer to take all 5 of my kids into a store where there might be murderers and kidnappers (if you follow the prevailing logic) than it is to leave them safely locked (they lock and unlock the doors for me… just in case that sounds like I’m securing them in the car so they can’t escape) in the car listening to their cd or otherwise enjoying themselves?

    By the way, my 8 year old already knows how to back the car off the cement part of our driveway and pull it forward onto the gravel, so… he can probably stop and park the car if it “just happens” to magically jump into gear while everyone is strapped in.

    I suppose I should feel happy? that I’m worried about people being too ‘helpful’ instead of concerned that my children will be kidnapped, murdered or killed in a spontaneous combustion incident with my vehicle, but it somehow makes me feel LESS safe.

    I’d be tempted to put a “If you’re that worried about the kids left in this car, stand there and watch out for them for the 10 minutes I’ll be out of sight instead of wasting time calling the police!”, but that would probably just advertise what I’m doing and get me into trouble quicker.

    Have ALREADY ranted about this is so many ways/places! There really is a difference between neglect and leaving a kid in a safe place while you accomplish something.

  109. SKL June 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    My kids were in a car seat that they couldn’t unbuckle (in the back seat) until they were 4.5, so that wasn’t an issue for a very quick run with them in the car. I always said “stay in your seat with your seatbelt buckled” just in case. I threatened serious consequences if the seat belt was unbuckled when I returned. Once they went into boosters at 4.5, they had the ability to unbuckle but they didn’t dare, especially knowing that they weren’t going to have time to get back into their seats. My kids are also not allowed in my front seat, even if I’m there, unless I give them specific permission.

    That said, I do give my 6yo the car keys to go unlock the car so she and her sister can get buckled up, giving me a moment of extra time in the morning rush. She is good about doing what she’s told, and she leaves the keys in a little cubby where I can grab them once I get into the car. It makes her feel good to be given that little responsibility. There is never enough time for her to do anything foolish before I get out there.

  110. Andrea June 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Stupid law…. How is it possible to never leave a child in a car? If I buy gas and run in to the store to pay, I have to unload three small children, unbuckle their seat belts, make sure their coats are zipped against the minus zero wind chill, try to herd them across the parking lot with two hands to hold and trusting that the other child will not dart off in front of a car, try to keep them from touching anything in the store, then reverse the whole process, being careful to get them buckled securely back into their car seats with my now numb fingers. Crazy. They would be way safer sitting in the warm car for the two minutes it takes me to pay for my gasoline. They are in much more severe risk of being run over or even snatched while walking with me than buckled into the ridiculously secure carseats that the government already mandates.

  111. Warren June 6, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    You have to love all these examples, but none of them are actually of a 4 year old watching a movie, like she asked to do.

    Two kids manipulating a car into gear, has nothing to do with this case.

    The mom stopping for directions, was a kid sitting in the front seat, on the side of a road. Nothing near this case.

    My vehicles have always run perfectly, as I do most of the maintenance myself, and because my line of work depends on my service truck, I have always stayed ontop of all maintenance.

  112. LRH June 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Melissa Call the police if you will, that doesn’t change my perspective and that of others that such is wrong. You end up opening a can of worms like what the poster is experiencing, and it shouldn’t be that way. Nothing in the parenting realm, or few things anyway, are perfect, even taking the kids inside with you has risk, and calling the police on someone because they parent in a way you don’t agree with is despicable.

    Nothing is cut & dry. What if the car is harder to start and so the parent leaves it running so that problem won’t be encountered? No matter what you think of a practice, to me the parents should be the one to make the call, and bystanders should tend to their own kids and buzz off.

    Different places have different standards, sometimes evn close-by. For example, as much as drowning is considered a risk, different places handle it different ways with regards to pools at home. In the city almost everywhere requires fencing around the pool based on the idea that a neighbor’s kids will go into the pool owner’s yard, jump in it, and drown. However, where I live at, out in the boonies, it’s not required, and the sentiment here is “keep your kids out of my yard and it won’t be a problem.”

    In the city maybe 5 miles from here you could call the police & the homeowner would probably be ordered to erect a fence or take the pool down, per city ordinances. Out here, they’d laugh you off the phone. The idea here is we’re in the country & basically are free to live in such ways however we choose, only 5 miles from where it would go totally different.

    If you are going to call the police, at least have the decency to tell them your name & stand behind your word and make sure your call isn’t baseless. One lady 2-odd hours from here who had the police called on her for letting her kids play outside, upon the call being shown as baseless, ended up filing a lawsuit against the city police, the police officer personally AND the neighbor who called the police to start with. I say “right on.”

    Frankly, also, sometimes I think the KIDS are to blame, yes the kids are. I have noticed this–in prior eras, if parents went to respectable lengths to train their child what to do & what not to do and the child did so anyway, rather than the adult being chastised for not compensating for how the child was bound to not do as they were told, instead the CHILD was chastised for not obeying & doing as they were told. For instance, take the gun safety issue. Growing up, my parents had 2 guns in their room right in the closet, unlocked and loaded. I was strongly told to NOT go in her room for any reason by myself, EVER. I know enough about how I was raised that if I had gone in there & handled the guns and been hurt, my parents wouldn’t have been admonished for having loaded unlocked guns, instead I would’ve been for not doing as I was told.

    In the case of our kids, ages 4 & 6, I have clear expectations of what they are okay to do & what they are NOT okay to do. For instance, I am known to leave candy to munch on right at my desk, and I expect our kids to not touch it. Heck, even at age 3, I did this. I wasn’t going to put it up high on a shelf figuring they were going to do it, I specifically made it a point to leave it where they COULD reach it and STILL expect them to leave it alone. If they failed in that respect, they received discipline. And yes they DID know, because ta times I’d catch them in the act & they put it down within a split second of spotting me. Don’t tell me they didn’t KNOW.

    That said, I understand that some things are more risky and dangerous, and such I don’t practice that method with regards to medication, it goes up high. I can understand someone saying that would apply to kids in a running car, but I think a person should mind their own business, and if you don’t feel shame at potentially wrecking someone’s home by involving the police, then frankly I’d question whether you’re a moral person at all.


  113. Andrea June 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm #


  114. del June 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    @dusty and any others on here talking about kids under 10 being unsafe or the dangers of children putting cars in gear and experimenting:

    It’s true that you CANNOT leave just any and every kid in the car at whatever age you want. I will hand you that one. I myself have an 8 year old son who is mature in many ways beyond that of many 13 year olds. He could probably have been trusted in the driver’s seat of a running vehicle from the time he was 2, but as it was I just trusted him to remain buckled and wait patiently. My second child, however, I could NOT have left in a running car at two unless I was positive she didn’t know how to get out of her seat… let alone 4 when she knew how to unbuckle! She is now 7 and has matured a great deal. It WOULD have been neglect for me to leave her in a running car for many years. Now, it isn’t. That’s the difference between using our heads about defining ‘abuse and neglect’ and making blanket rules that double up on the laws already in place PREVENTING abuse and neglect. Laws like the ones which say “any child under ____ left in the car is a victim of neglect” Most rules like that are baloney! Only a parent is qualified to determine what their child is mature enough for/ready to handle. Some kids are ready to walk to the store by themselves at 3. That doesn’t mean that mine is! Some are capable of staying at the library alone by age 8, some are too rambunctious until they mellow out at 12. Mine would be as lost biking in the city as city kids would be trying to climb 50 feet up a pine tree in our yard and trying to keep the cow out of the barn. Who’s going to know which child is capable to do which thing? Not the lawmakers. Not other parents of different kids. Just the parents of the actual child in question. So while leaving an 8 year old in the car may sound stupid to you, it may be that you have a different kind of 8 year old. Kids mature and develop at different rates. In some circumstances, I can trust my 8 and 4 year olds much further than I can trust my 5 and 7 year olds for that reason. (Yes, I just said I have a 4 year old that is more trustworthy than my 7 year old, it happens. One’s a flighty, emotional, creative kid who is AWESOME… the other’s a solid, steady, rule-follower who is also AWESOME. Temperament, training, ability AND age all make a HUGE difference) By the way, my kids won’t be experimenting with knobs to find out what they do… they KNOW what the levers do, they’ve asked, I’ve answered, demonstrated, and sometimes let them use the switches/levers themselves. My 5,7,8 year old take turns turning on our van for me. If they can do that without causing a problem, I’m fairly certain that waiting in the car for 10-15 minutes will not cause a problem. I know a pair of amazingly responsible and competent 10 year olds who drive tractors for their dad and have been working up to that skill for quite some time. I’d love to have seen people trying to convince them that they were too young to wait in the car at 6 or 7. It would have been HILARIOUS!

  115. SKL June 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    When my younger siblings were 6 and 10, I let them drive around a parking lot in my mom’s car. LOL. I told my mom later how well they had done. She calmly mentioned that that might not have been the wisest idea I ever had. Now, I have my own 6yos, and I’m in no mad hurry to give them driving lessons, LOL. However, that does not mean they are too stupid to understand what cars do. It just means there is no good reason to embark on that journey just yet. 😉

  116. LRH June 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    del Exactly. The parents, and ONLY the parents, know their kids. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Parents who aren’t evil, which would be 99½% of them I would venture a guess, are the ones who know and the only ones who NEED to know what their child is capable of. They aren’t morally obligated to explain their decisions to bystanders who don’t know their kids from collard shrimp stew, nor should they be legally required to explain.

    Parents are not meant to parent their kids by committee. They inherently deserve the authority to parent without running their decisions by others for one simple reason–they are the parents. They deserve it NOT because we like them, or because they have their parenting license (people are constantly saying how if one needs a license to drive they should need one to be a parent), or because they parent how they like. They deserve the authority based on that they are the parents. Period. Only really evil ones should have this interfered with, as in those who beat their kids to bruises that take weeks to fade, feed their kids bread & water while keeping them locked in cages in the basement, etc. Bringing the police & other such outsiders in every parenting situation is not at all the society I think any of us, with reasonable judgment anyway, would dare want or advocate.


  117. Michelle June 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    I would never leave kids that young alone in the car for more than a few seconds while it wasn’t in view. And I’ve got FOUR kids. Until my oldest was a teenager, that meant taking everyone in with me all the time. It’s not that hard.

    Even within sight of the car, walking 20 feet across a dark parking lot to watch my daughter cross in her black uniform, I’ve had a “helpful citizen” try to open the van door because she saw my sleeping infant next to his eight year old brother. I would LOVE to know what she would have done if the car had been unlocked. It was, so she settled for going into my daughter’s karate class and complaining to everyone who would listen about what a bad parent I was.

    If she’d gotten into the car and touched my baby, I think I would’ve been the one calling the police.

  118. Del Marie Riley June 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    I have 4 kids, now ages 24-15. When they were little we’d let them sit in the car. Be it one child or all 4. This is just insane now a days. The IRS is spending a teacher’s annual salary on videos, we are spied upon by our government for the sake of terrorism, and our constitutional rights are being trampled upon. We need to get our priorities straight and focus on the more important issues at hand. Criminal charges, jail time, CPS???? REALLY!! I could understand it if the situation was 90* heat, windows rolled up, no ac, and the child screaming and uncomfortable/hurt. Not this, this is way out of proportion. Best of luck to you. You and your family are in my prayers.

  119. hineata June 7, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    @Warren – excellent. Good for you. I am impressed that anyone is able to do the majority of maintenance on vehicles themselves these days, given the electronic components. I had great fun helping my dad swing engines from one vehicle to another using the old tripod and pulleys. No one I know seems to do that any more. But I had forgotten that, being in the trade, you could probably find a mate to do the electronic bits for you.

    I am so going to encourage my kids to do trades ……

  120. Lyanne June 7, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    I went through this too. It is by far the most shameful thing I have ever experienced, and I NEVER tell anyone about it. I hibernated in my house for a long time afterwards, too embarrassed to show my face to the neighbors. In my case, I was in the store for a short time, but a “witness” said I was in there for 20 minutes. I had a grocery store receipt from a few miles down the street with a time under 20 minutes but no one paid attention to me. The police officer said my car could have “spontaneously combusted”. If I weren’t so upset, and if I knew about Free Range, I should have laughed in his face. I was fingerprinted, read my rights…it was awful. It struck right to the core of who and what I am; a mother.
    I called a lawyer, he showed my receipt to the judge, and the case was thrown out. CPS still had to technically report neglect since I did leave my children. It happened 15 years ago and this is the first time I have told anyone. Only because you all don’t know me.
    I was frequently left alone in the car when little. I was left alone in the library while my mother went to her exercise class, and because of it I have become a voracious reader.
    I hope this woman’s case is thrown out of court too. Please keep us updated.

  121. Meg June 7, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    I left my 1 year old sleeping in her carseat while I ran into the post office to check the mail, as well as in the parking lot of a library as I ran in to return books. The only thing I was nervous about was someone calling CPS. I wasn’t worried about my child being abducted or anything of that sort… I was worried about that “Good Samaritan” seeing my kid in the car. And BTW, I did NOT lock the door. Why? Because I have an older car that sometimes makes it difficult to unlock – so I was afraid that I would not be able to unlock the door and my kid would be trapped. So, I left my kid in an UNLOCKED car. Thinking about it now, it would take someone LONGER to figure out how to unhook the child from the carseat than it took me to run my quick errands. Thankfully, no one reported me for child endangerment (I would like to think because no one thought my kid was in danger, but it is more likely because no one was around to see my “bad parenting”)

  122. Andy June 7, 2013 at 5:11 am #

    I left baby in car when I was driving to visit relative and needed to go to toilette. Driving while needing to go is more dangerous then few minutes in parked car.

    I left the window half open, so then fresh air can get into car while it is waiting. Kid was unable to leave on its own.

    It was neither hot nor cold. You needed light jacket to feel comfortable outside.

  123. Pjack June 7, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    I am so glad I was a child of the 80’s and early 90’s. I swear we were the last generation of fun!
    We would be left in the car allllll the time. We loved it! I HATED going into the store with my mom and a fight would always brew. I’d be begging or whining or something!
    I hope that trends move back in the direction of when I was a kid. I cannot stand the fearful, disinfected society that my kids are coming up in.

  124. Kenny Felder June 7, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Is it too late for helpful advice? GET A LAWYER. There are specific rules for how these things are handled, and lawyers understand them, and the rest of us don’t. It is always worth the money.

  125. Suzanne June 7, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    I have left my kids in the car since they were just a couple of weeks old if I am going into a gas station or something of that nature – entire store front is a window. From the time my oldest was 8 or so I have left them in the car when I can’t see the car. Everyone has different rules for their kids in this situation. For us the car is locked and I have the keys. I do not leave the car running because the emissions from an idling car are really bad for the environment (I think it should be illegal to let a car run idle for more than 5 minutes.) I would have left my daughter at 4 but not either of my boys. My older son who is now 9 routinely stays in the car while I’m grocery shopping for 30 minutes or longer. Our rule is it has to be cool enough outside that the car isn’t going to become hot. Good luck to this mom, I hope she gets a good judge.

  126. Bostonian June 7, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    The law or police custom against leaving kids unattended in cars is in full force in the Boston area as well. It’s not actually illegal in this state or in NY (or in most other states) to leave a child unattended in a car, but the police can always make up something (i.e. put it in as vague ‘child endangerment’) to fit the circumstances, and they like to. My cousin is a DA who has had to prosecute some of these cases. As they say, you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.

    My response has long been to wait in the car with the baby while my son goes and does the errands. I’ve been sending him into convenience stores to get milk or put mail in a mailbox or things like that since he was six.

    I actually think there’s some truth to what policeman Jan Johnson says. The fact is there are a lot more car thieves out there than child molesters. The odds your car will get stolen are much higher than the possibility someone will intentionally kidnap your children.

    Now that my boy is a strapping and responsible nine-year-old (4’10!) he can easily do just about anything. This year he’s ready to walk to the square and shop by himself.

    I leave him alone in the car all the time. I leave him alone in the park. But I won’t leave him alone in the car, and I wouldn’t leave the baby alone in the car either, especially not with the keys in it.

  127. Ali F June 7, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I routinely leave my kids, ages 10, 8, and 5, in the car (and sometimes just the youngest). I lock the doors, leave heat/AC on, and remote start the car. I have been hassled by bystanders a couple of times, but I still do it. And nothing bad has ever happened to my kids. The whole point is that all of these parents have assessed their kids and the situation and made a decision that is best for all of them.

  128. Natalie June 7, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I’ve left my 6 and 2 1/2 yr old in the car for quick errands, with the doors locked. Never with the car running. Not in the heat. I don’t think anyone would steal my car as it has 175,000 miles on it and isn’t worth much, but if the car is running that’s a big temptation, kids or not.

    I also live in Massachussetts, good to know there isn’t a law restricting that.

    Bostonian – that’s an even better idea, next time, I’ll also send my 6 yr old in to do the errand and sit with the 2 1/2 yr old.

  129. C June 7, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    I leave my 4 year old in the car every single day while I run into my 2 year old’s daycare. Every. Single. Day.

  130. Sarah June 7, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    About a month ago, I began to leave my 5-1/2 year old in the car alone while I run in to do short errands. I leave the car off and the doors locked, and he knows that he can’t open the door to ANYONE, even someone in a uniform. He had been begging to do so from the time he was 4 (he’d much rather stay in the car and read than have to go in with me), but I had been nervous about how others would react. I finally looked up the law, and now I am “risking” it. (The risk is not to my son’s safety, but that someone will decide to make a fuss about it.)

    Of course, because of the ridiculous society we live in I have a copy of my state law in the glove compartment, which can be shown to let busybodies know that I am actually allowed to leave him in the car for up to 10 minutes.

  131. Dan June 7, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    I too have left my little one in the car for a few minutes. As it turns out, she’s been fine. Every time. On a hot day, I leave the key in and the AC on. In fact, I did this YESTERDAY. When I came back out, an older couple was sitting in their car in the space next to mine, watching our 16-month old with worried looks on faces. When they saw me get into the driver seat, they drove away.

    I happen to be a lawyer as well. I’d love to tell you that you should get a lawyer. Here’s a secret: there’s no magic to being a lawyer. Largely it involves common sense: the ability to know what a rule is, apply it to a given situation, and make an argument.

    One of the things all lawyers learn in the first year of law school is a formula concocted by Judge Learned Hand.

    Hand had an interesting theory about how to decide when a course of action was negligent. You multiply the magnitude of the harm by the probability of that harm occurring. Then, you figure out the cost of preventing that harm. If the cost of preventing that harm is less, then you’re not negligent. It’s a crude cost/benefit analysis.

    Regular adults do something like this calculation ALL THE TIME. Here’s an example: a tall building might be designed to withstand an 8.5 earthquake. The obvious question to ask is: why not design it to withstand an 8.6? And the obvious answer is: when we do a cost/benefit analysis, we have to stop SOMEWHERE. And the place that we stop is the point where we decide that taking more precautions becomes too onerous. I the case of an earthquake, we don’t really know the probability, but let’s assume there’s a one in a billion billion chance of an 8.4 earthquake, and a one kajillion chance of an 8.6. Even though it’s POSSIBLE that all the people in that building will die, the risk is SO unlikely that spending the extra millions to reinforce it more is not worthwhile.

    Let’s apply the Learned Hand formula to your actions:
    When I leave the child in the car for a minute, that’s because the “cost” to me of unbuckling the car seat, taking her out, etc. becomes greater than the benefit of knowing that she’s “safe.”

    Here’s the way I would present it to a judge: Your honor, it is true that there would be SOME risk in leaving a child alone in a car for a few minutes, because someone might break the window and take my child. That risk is so infinitesimally improbable that you can disregard it entirely. However unlikely, I need to consider the magnitude of the possible harm: if someone broke the glass a few feet from the store, in full view of this retailer’s CCTV cameras, I would be devastated. But I don’t think the abductor would have gotten far in just a couple minutes, especially with a police officer hanging around. Furthermore, I weighed that risk against the chance that both my child and I would be shot by a madman who decided to shoot at people as they waited in line to purchase merchandise at the JCP store. I decided that the child was safer in the car, and this is an example of sane, rational, decision-making from a careful, conscientious, loving parent.
    Here’s where there’s real risk to society: the officer of the peace who has required me to be here today. Given the number of car accidents that occur each day in this country, there is a slim chance that I might be hurt or killed by another driver on my way to court or on my way home. That chance is slim, but it is FAR more likely than the idea that my child might be taken from the car just a few feet from the CCTV cameras of a huge retail store.

    Your honor, if, heaven forbid, I am hurt or killed on my way home, who will hold you accountable for depriving my child of a loving parent?

  132. Silver Fang June 7, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    My mom let me wait in the car starting at age ten.

  133. Sarah Kingan June 7, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    I have left my kids in the car on a couple occasions. Once, I left my 2 month old daughter alone in the car for 5 minutes while I mailed a package. I could see the car through the window the whole time. I also occasionally leave her in the car if she’s sleeping when I pick up her sister at preschool. Another time, I left my two sleeping girls in the car while I went into Walgreens. I was gone about 10 minutes. The car was locked and off and it was a cool spring day. They were both still snoozing when I returned. What is worse, leaving them to finish their naps, or waking them both up and dragging them into the store? Duh, the former. My husband leaves our toddler in the car when he runs into the convenience store. It never even occurred to him there was anything wrong with it and he is much for cautious than I am.

  134. Natalie June 7, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Dan? I love your post. Love.

  135. Liz June 7, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    I had done this a few times when my girls were younger – at the gas station or to make a quick return to Target. Once I left my 5-ish year old in the same exact scenario this mother did: movie on, car on, a/c on, car locked (not belted in though). I returned to the same exact situation. Some good samaratin had called the cops and I was blocked in by them when I came out (maybe 20 minutes?).
    Luckily nothing came of mine. The officier said he would need to reprot it to his supervisor and gave me his card – but no charges were pressed. I felt unbelievalbe guilt thought made none better by my dear husband who thought this was a travesty. I still feel like crying talking about it – probably from guilt AND anger that the officer and my husband acted the way ththey did.
    FYI – my girls are now 12 and 8 and are both FINE. But, I have since not left them out of fear of something happening again. Not because I personally think there was any danger but because of fear of what the authorities might do. — Oh, and I too live in Michigan.

    I LOVE this blog, by the way Lenore. The only bad thing about it is how worked up I feel after reading about so many ridiculously handled situaitons driven by fear!!!

  136. Mrs. H. June 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    This March I left my four-year-old in the car (parked and off, as temperature was not an issue). I was delivering 20 dozen eggs to church and thought I was just running in for a minute, but it turned into about 10. When I got back, a woman walking her dog was waiting by the car to be sure someone returned “in time.” Not sure “in time for what” as my daughter would have been fine as long as it took her to die of thirst (except that she sits in a backless booster seat now and is perfectly capable of unlatching it and opening the door herself).

  137. Bostonian June 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Dan, there’s magic in a great lawyer all right. Because a good lawyer knows the law. But a great lawyer knows the judge.

  138. Jay June 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Leaving a kid in the car for a bit is reasonable. Leaving the car running is not. Idling a car is socially and environmentally reprehensible: harmful to everyone nearby and potentially dangerous to the occupants. Weather that requires an idling vehicle is not appropriate for leaving kids in the car.

  139. Gary June 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    “Leaving a kid in the car for a bit is reasonable. Leaving the car running is not. Idling a car is socially and environmentally reprehensible: harmful to everyone nearby and potentially dangerous to the occupants. Weather that requires an idling vehicle is not appropriate for leaving kids in the car.”

  140. Alice Epstein June 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    This isn’t “I leave my kid in the car” story – but it shows that not all cultures believe that it is dangerous to leave children alone, outside and unattended:

  141. Shannon June 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    I routinely leave my 5 year old and 18 month old in the car together, usually because I forgot something in the house that we need for the day, or because the little one fell asleep on our way home, and I want to grab some stuff to do while I sit in the car as he naps. The older one also goes into the house from the street and plays by herself while the little one and I stay out there.
    It is actually illegal to leave children in a car with the engine on in the state of Washington. I guess the state is more worried about kids driving off with the car somehow then dying of heat stroke.

  142. anonymous this time June 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    I was born before Nixon left office in disgrace, so I spent a lot of time sitting in the car while my mom ran errands. Summer, winter… well, usually summer, because that’s when I was out of school.

    Here’s what I recall: we were always, always, ALWAYS offered the choice of staying in the car or coming into the store.

    If we stayed in the car, all the windows were rolled down. We never had the car running or A/C on while we waited, I don’t think. I lived where it got quite hot in the summer, but not Arizona hot.

    It was the SHOCK OF MY LIFE when I had young kids in the 2000’s and found out that there was ZERO TOLERANCE for children left in cars while Mom ran in to get something.

    Even now, my mother kind of refuses to believe that this is the norm, people calling the police or at the very least viciously harassing people who return to their cars after a brief pop in somewhere and a child left in the car.

    She thinks I’m making it up! She thinks it’s terribly unusual to have a case where police or CPS are involved! She thinks it’s the same as it was in the 70s! And I think she’d never make it as a lawful parent if she were held to the standards we are. Let’s just say she wasn’t the “sacrifice everything for the sake of the kids” type.

    I’ve left my kids in the car. When they were babies, when they were toddlers, when they were young children, and now as they are older children. I live in a place where the climate is conducive to non-life-threatenening car sitting. Still, I’ve caught heck from a few passers-by. Whatevs. I feel a bit ashamed, but then I think, “of what?” Ashamed that I assessed the situation and determined that my children were less likely to come to harm in the car than they were crossing a notoriously poorly-designed parking lot in the pouring rain to run a 4.2 minute errand? How is that shameful? That’s what I would call GOOD parenting.

    And to anyone who thinks this isn’t a FRK issue, I beg to differ. FRK is as much about our freedom as parents to assess risk and act in autonomous ways in raising our children as it is about children benefiting from opportunities to make independent decisions and learn through their unsupervised experiences.

  143. bmommyx2 June 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    I have & do leave my kids in the car & although not my intention on occasion it has been for as long as 15 or 20 minutes. My boys are two & six. I have even run into the grocery store quickly when one or both have fallen asleep. Sometimes I leave one or both. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable leaving the vehicle running but I also don’t think she did anything wrong. I will only do it if it’s not hot or if it’s warm & I can park in the shade. I park close to the door & it’s taking longer I will pop out & check on him / them, I’ve done this when I’ve gone into a small grocery store (not a big box). They car is always locked, windows cracked & kids in car seats. Where is the danger I ask. I was told once by a stranger that someone could take my kids. If someone wanted to they could snatch my baby from my arms or grab my older one while we are walking. I refuse to live in a world of worst thinking first. I once was yelled at by a stranger for leaving my sleeping kids in the car at the gas station while I went in to wash my hands & pay. It was not hot the car was locked & the windows were cracked. Unfortunately the baby woke up & was crying but that could happen if I was in the car. Critics might say to wait & come back to the store, but I live 20-30 from most stores & my time is short & gas is expensive. I make sure they are safe & I do what is reasonable. Our society has taken everything to extremes. My son is in Kindergarten & the kids stand behind the gate at the end of the day like prisoners waiting to be release while the teacher walks each one to their parents. The process takes so long that the cars back up into the street prompting impatient people to drive on the wrong side of the road, it’s a nightmare.

  144. Sherri June 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    I recently listened to a mother rant about how irresponsible and negligent her ex-husband is because he left the kids alone in the car a couple of times to run in for milk and to go to the bank machine, and that this has caused her boys to have night terrors. The boys in question are eight and eleven years old. I told her that my seven and ten year old boys often wait in the car for me in those situations by choice…

  145. Laura sauter June 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    I remember my mom left my baby sister in the baby carriage
    outside the deli near NYC, while she shopped. There were several other carriages parked there as well….no one worried, no one freaked out – it was normal. And NO it is NOT more dangerous now.

  146. wk June 8, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    My dad left me in the car for most of my childhood while he spent 3 or 4 hours In the bar getting drunk, parents like him are the reason for these laws. It’s to bad all the good parents have to be affected.

  147. Warren June 8, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    For all those worried about the vehicle being stolen, this is how it goes, and the car thieves are well aware of this.

    Stolen car, no child………….cop responds as a non emergency, takes report, tells you to file a claim, and wishes you luck.

    Stolen car, with child in it………..AMBER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every emergency worker, and vigilante public actively searching for the vehicle.

    Which scenario do you think is most likely desirable to the thief?

  148. Jenna Wood June 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    In Utah, you can’t punish someone unless the child is under 9, and is in danger of hyperthermia, hypothermia or dehydration, none of which can happen in 15 minutes.

    I also love that in Utah a 9-year-old can be responsible for other children in a car alone. (In Michigan it’s 13.)

    These laws need to be changed. Even Michigan’s law states that child can not be left unattended for a period of time that poses unreasonable risk of harm. 15 minutes is not unreasonable. But specifics, like Utah’s law would minimize these tickets for a trip of 15 min or less.

  149. Jenny Islander June 9, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    It’s as though anybody who would steal a car would also automatically do horrible things to any child they found within it. No, going over the moral event horizon to child murder is not a nice bonus to a day spent at the chop shop!

    I am also pretty sure that most thieves who discover kids in the car after they steal the car immediately go “Oh cussing cuss, the cops are gonna cussing kill me, the parents are gonna cussing kill me, if I survive to do time the inmates are gonna cussing kill me” and either dump the kids in front of a convenience store or park the car with the kids inside and run like the wind.

    My own story about leaving the kids in the car: When mine were 7, 4, and toddling, I left the younger two in the car for about 20 minutes so I could sign up my older one for Scouts. The toddler was sleeping and the preschooler had a busy bag, so I figured they would be OK. I learned that she was not ready to be left in the car because she got scared (of eagles, IIRC) and cried so hard her little brother woke up and cried too. Lesson learned.

    Luckily I don’t live in a town full of busybodies, so nobody called the cops on me.

    Oh, and at six she is just fine for 20 minutes as long as her brother isn’t being a poopoohead.

  150. AnotherAnon June 9, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I have been known to let my kids sleep in the car parked in our driveway, sometimes for an hour at a time. If the weather is nice enough to leave them out there, I roll down all the windows and park in the shade, and I go inside or weed the garden or whatever.

    Oh, and when I go to the convenience store, I often leave them in the car. I’m never in there for more than 5 minutes.

  151. nick June 9, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    I agree that it is okay to leave a younger child IF the car is off, windows cracked, you can see your car, and it is done quickly — by that I mean 5 minutes or less. All of these examples of “I do it all the time,” “My parents left me in the car,” etc. shouldn’t justify whether or not it’s okay. Each situation differs and people’s judgement seem to give way to convenience. The arguments of kids begging to stay in the car to watch videos, going in is too boring and all seem silly to me. (I think iPads and portable DVDs are overused for young children. Kids don’t know how to ride 3 blocks or have a meal at a restaurant without personal video entertainment… and of course the kids beg for it).
    The bottom line is it is against the law, she was gone for over 15 minutes (which a long time to leave a four year old restrained inside of an idling car), and she was caught. That being said, I don’t think she should not face jail time.

  152. S June 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    Where I live it is explicitly illegal (not a guideline, but a law) to leave any child under the age of 8 alone in a car for more than 5 minutes.

    Know the laws where you live and avoid running afoul of them. Also know the difference between a guideline and a law.

  153. Cass June 10, 2013 at 5:14 am #

    Just read this. Thought you might enjoy it.

    “Where a lady, however, pays her visits in a carriage, the children can be taken in the vehicle, and remain in it until the visit is over.”

    Excerpt From: Beeton, Isabella. “The Book of Household Management.” iBooks.

  154. kiser b June 10, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    I would consider leaving my dog in the car for up to 15 minutes, as long as the temperature was not to hot or cold and was not permitted to bring her with me. But you people are are fucking nuts leaving your kids.

  155. bmax June 10, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    “.. & do leave my kids in the car & although not my intention on occasion it has been for as long as 15 or 20 minutes. ”

    Wow – scary parenting stories on this topic. How can you say it was never your intention to leave them for that long? This is why we need laws, to protect kids from this kind of stupid parenting!!

    And you wonder why American children are obese – parents are too lazy to bring their children around to run errands!!!

  156. bmax June 10, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    How nice to keep your “windows cracked open” for your own offspring. Parent of the year award right there :rolls eyes:

  157. rae June 10, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I agree that it depends on the kids. My kids love to wait in the car, they also would prefer I leave it running. I refuse to leave it running, for several reasons, all listed above by other posters. The bottom line is, I think the risk is too great, and I get to decide that cause I’m the mama. Thank you nosy busybody, please go raise your own kids.

    When my kids were little (they are now 6 & 8) I had no off street parking, and sometimes would have to park a block away. If both kids were sleeping… ugh. I would run one kid in and then the other and sometimes it could be 15 minutes if it was a longer walk. I’ve been known to ask a passing stranger to wait, for an irrational insurance policy, cause if the kid woke alone, they were still going to be extremely unhappy. But you know what? In the 2 years that I did this, several times a week, one of the kids (the one in the house while I retrieved #2) woke up alone ONCE, one time. In probably 200+ iterations, she was crying when I came back carrying her brother. It was not optimal, but I don’t think it was criminal…

    My kid are 6 and 8 and only very recently I’ve started to let them wait for longer periods (say more than 5-10 minutes), and only when they want to, I had to wait in the car when I was a kid and I HATED it, it was boring and my mom took forever, so I guess that colors my experience. But, you know, if they would rather finish their snack or read a book or do a dot-to-dot than come in and I’m not going grocery shopping or to sit down and eat somewhere, fine, stay in the car, I try not to make my baggage thiers.

    I wouldn’t call the cops if I saw kids in a running car, but I would probably assume the parents were coming right back and hang around until they returned.

    Of course you assume some risk, you do it every time you get out of bed, but thinking people weigh the risks and make a calculation and hopefully an educated guess with all the info. If it was 20 below or 106, I’d make them come in, but at 75 degrees, if they want, they can wait with the car off.

  158. Kathy June 11, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    Like many have said, I think it depends on the outside weather and the age of the children. Mine are 8 and 2 and I do leave them in the car from time to time, usually for quick in-and-out errands. When I do leave them, I park a little further away to avoid the attention that’s been described here…fewer people walking past my car = less liklihood that CPS will visit. But I’d never leave the 2y.o. in the car by himself without his sister. And my rule of thumb is, if it’s too hot/cold to leave them in the car with the engine shut off, then they need to come with me. That’s just my opinion, though. The area I live in is VERY much into helicopter parenting, so although I don’t believe my kids are in any danger by being left in the car, most of the time I tend to go by status quo when it comes to this….they’ll have plenty of other opportunities to run on a longer leash elsewhere. A busy parking lot is probably not the best place to extend that freedom though.

  159. Dr. Vannostrin June 11, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    So this is supposed to teach self reliance, strong minds and independent thinking, leaving them strapped down in a locked car? Seems like the only thing it supports is narcissistic parents.

  160. SS June 11, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    (Kathy) My Father used to leave me in the car, he would also park further away to avoid getting in trouble. I remember one time a older man got in the car with me said he knew my dad, he then forced me to perform oral sex on him. I never said anything to this day, (Dr V) my Father is very much a self centered narcassist.

  161. Jenn June 11, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    As a teen growing up in public housing I have been in and around many a stolen car and from a criminals standpoint (dont worry im long since reformed;) I can assure you that a car with a kid in it is the least likely to be stolen…or the most likely to be returned immediatly after..

  162. SS June 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Least likely to be picked by a car thief, most likely to be picked by a child molester. After I was molested I would lay down in the car so no-one would see me. I felt like I was put out on a silver platter

  163. Kay June 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Well, I hate to say it, but I don’t do a whole lot in this area BECAUSE of busy-bodies wanting to call the cops. The most I’ve done is that I routinely left my infant in his car seat while I retrieved my preschooler, while other mothers were dragging their’s in. I saw no reason to have to take him in with me for a pick-up, which in person was required. Also, I’ve gone into stores that have parking and a window right out front to look out at my car. That’s about it, not that I don’t think they’ll be safe, it’s that some people are unreasonable in thinking the worst would happen, including police officers.

  164. Kay June 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Just wanted to add I wish this mother the best in her fight and hope she keeps us posted.

  165. kiser b June 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    This is about what is easier and more convenient for the parents, clearly it’s not the safest choice for the kids. It’s selfish, self centered and against the law.

  166. Danielle June 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I would be much more concerned about leaving the pollution from idling for 15 minutes than the safety of my children. In Ontario, this driver would have been fined for idling for more than 3 minutes. I certainly do not think it is a crime to leave the children in the car for 15 minutes.

  167. Joel June 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    I’d find out if I could put a lien of $500,000 on everyone involved, police included, this will destroy their credit. They’ll learn no to be busy bodies.

  168. June June 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    When I was a kid, my Mom left us in the car with the windows down!

  169. Warren June 12, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    Sorry bout your incident, if it really happened. By the way you are going on about it, I highly doubt it happened.

    @kiser and bmax,
    Not even worth addressing two people with the combined IQ of 4.

    @Dr. Vann
    Doctor of what? As your comment is that of preacher and not a doctor.

  170. kiser b June 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    (Warren) sounds like you are projecting.your own dishonesty and low IQ

  171. Warren June 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Well kiser b, you are the one saying it is illegal. So where is it illegal? Not where I live, and not in alot of other places either.

    My dishonesty? Prove it, and I will match intellect with you anyday.

  172. K June 14, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    I’m a vet tech and we see a handful of heat stroke cases every summer. This past week, a chihuahua, left in a car with windows cracked, died. He had been in the car less than ten minutes, the owner ran in to the post office for something that should have taken a few minutes and ended up taking longer. So yes, even an ac cooled car can heat up very quickly if the engine stalls.

    I personally would never leave a four year old in a car alone where I couldn’t see the vehicle. But I think calling the police is a crappy thing to do.

  173. Jamie June 15, 2013 at 1:51 am #

    I left my two year old grandson in locked running car today while I ran in bakery. I was parked in spot by front door and could see him entire time. I was approached by a man who tod me it’s a felony to do this. I suppose I will be getting a visit from! CPS! I’m all for citizens looking out for children, BUT PLEASE use some common sense!! I counted my steps back to the car. FOURTEEN STEPS.

  174. Walt June 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Wow, I didn’t realize how old a child someone might have a problem with this. My daughter is 14 months and we seldom go anywhere without mom along too, but I take my now almost 12-year-old nephew various places, and sometimes he’s along when I just want to run an errand (like pick up one or two things at Home Depot.)

    I’ve been letting him stay in the car for at least a couple years now, but never with the car running. He’s a goofy kid and kind of a gear-head, so I’m not leaving him in a running car.

    If it’s summer, he can open a door if he gets hot. The car should stay warm for a while in winter. I don’t leave him for long, but just because it’s rude, not because I’m worried about him.

    He lives with his grandma, and she’s letting him basically just take off for the day and go out and play with his friends, so I guess he’s free ranging it most of the time any more. (She does insist on knowing where he is or how to get him, but one of his friends has a cell phone, so that’s good enough for her.)

  175. Christina Moon June 19, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    To reply to all of the debate this heated subject has caused i’d like to begin with the fact that my daughter is very mature. Would NEVER try to drive off. Secondly, I have a remote start, keys were not left in the ignition or the vehicle. My intentions were to be in and out. The remote start shuts off after 15 minutes. Was it negligent? Perhaps. Child abuse? Not even close. I’ve been to 2parenting classes and have five more to go. Facing 90 days to one year in jail. Not to mention the strain all of this has put on my family. I’ m not having a pity party by any means. But, this is all obsured. Where is the common sense and compassion? My children are the most happiest and healthiest well rounded girls you’ll ever meet. Not sure what the government is trying to prove by prosecuting good Moms for running a quick errand while their child is locked safely in an air conditioned vehicle. Ruining a life because of “what might have happened” is the most negligent thing I’ve ever heard. Perhaps CPS should be examining the justice system. I know several judges and lawyers who’ve left their children unattended in a vehicle…..

  176. Debra July 14, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    In my neck of the woods (Phx, AZ), a fifteen-minute stay in a locked car with the windows rolled up (okay, the ac is on, but that’s not foolproof…) could lead to your child’s death. In my neck of the woods, hundreds of cars are stolen every day because someone left the engine running. Around here, you leave your 4-year-old kid in the car, you will come back to shattered windows and police waiting to arrest you, and that’s a good thing. Don’t be so lazy. If the errand’s that important, you’re just going to have to drag your kids inside with you. If it’s not that important, go home.

  177. Warren July 16, 2013 at 10:39 am #


    So no matter what the weather, no matter what the conditions, never ever let your kid wait in the car, or someone is going to smash the window in?

    Get off your soapbox. hundreds of cars are stolen in Pheonix everyday? How many of you have cars left? You say hundreds everyday, so save to assume 300 a day. So in the last 5 yrs, 547500 cars were stolen in Pheonix. Wow, what a great place to open a new car dealership, with that kind of demand for replacement vehicles.

  178. bmax July 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    OK Warren – tell me how it’s not lazy, self-centered and selfish to leave your kids in the car if only a “few minutes”. It’s been proven over and over that these parents are LOUSY at estimating how long it actually takes to run an errand.

    I will never support leaving kids in a vehicle. We have kids begging the parent to continue to watch a movie? Too bad!! Your coming with me! I mean who really is the parent here?


  179. Beth July 23, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    The kids who die are not in Wal-Mart parking lot and the parents are not in the store. I read the stories. I had nightmares and cried for days after I read the stories. Those kids were forgotten. Their parents went to work. That is a tragedy created by this rat-race we call progress. It has nothing to do with my kids waiting in the car while I go in the store. My daughter is eleven years old. She babysits her sister just as well in my mini-van as she does at home. The authorities should find out the facts and address the real problem instead of bugging moms like me. I have no priorities that rival my children. I am a mom first and second and twenty-second… There is nothing else until my baby is old enough to fend for herself. I doubt those pushy cops could say the same, since I didn’t see a baby strapped to their hip!

  180. Warren July 27, 2013 at 12:01 am #


    I am sorry that you and so many people have problems with time. Myself, I have an excellent awareness of elapsed time.

    It is not selfish. My kids for the most part prefered to stay with the dogs, instead of following me into the store. Usually I parked near a grass median or field, from toddler to 5 yrs old they would wait with the dog/s. Starting at 5 they would leash up the dog and walk her on the grass.
    Kids were happy, dog was happy, I was happy, and everyone was safe.

    And yes I know they were safe, because as friendly as my German Shep. was, and as approachable as she was, you make aggresive or threatenin advances on one of the kids, and she goes into attack mode. Never taught her that, she just loved her kids.

    bmax, I would have loved to see you attempt to break a window and get my kid out. I highly doubt you are much of a challenge for 80lbs of angry dog.

  181. Warren July 27, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    In answer to your question, who is the parent here? When it comes to my kids, I am. Not you, or any other busybody with a holierthanthou attitude. I am my kids parent, and what I say goes. If I say they can wait in the truck, not you, not anyone can say otherwise. It is that simple.


  1. Free Range Kids » “Parents Face Hard Consequences for Leaving Kids in Car” — Today Show Blog! - July 16, 2013

    […] brief errand. As you know, this is a topic we talk about here a lot, and one of our stories — this one, about Christina Moon — caught the eye of writer A. Pawlowski, who then wrote a story about it (and got 400 […]