UPDATE: VOTE POSTPONED! Should It Be Punishable by a Year in Jail to Let Your First-Grader Wait in the Car for 6 Minutes?

Hi all — There has been some sort of shift in the Rhode Island legislature, pushing this bill off today’s agenda. I will keep you posted!  – L.

 

RHODE ISLAND: The bill criminalizing parents who let their kids wait in the car a few minutes keeps coming back like a bad penny. (Or bored cop! Or eager busybody!)

In fact, it’s having a hearing again tomorrow — Thursday, Mar. 23. Here’s your chance to let your lawmakers know that parents should be allowed to determine whether or not it makes more sense to drag the kids out of the car on a brief errand. Please recall that anytime a child is waiting in a car for a few minutes you can be assured he or she faced more danger before the interlude. Car accidents — in moving cars — are the #1 way kids die. We don’t criminalize parents who deliberately choose to drive their kids places, because we understand the overwhelmingly safe odds.We just don’t understand the overwhelmingly safe odds of letting kids wait in the car a short while.

This note comes from Randall Rose, an activist in Providence, Rhode Island.

Dear Free-Range Kids:
 .
The bill that criminalizes leaving kids in cars, S72,
is having a hearing Thursday in the Senate Judiciary
Committee at the State House, Room 313.  People
can come and sign up to tell the committee what
they think of the bill at this hearing, which starts
at 4:30 or 5 Thursday.  This is the second of two
hearings on this bill.
 .
If you can’t make the hearing, Rhode Island residents
can call the committee clerk at 401-222-6625 to say
they’re against this bill.  It’s best to give your name
and town.
 .
Almost all cases of leaving children in cars are harmless,
and parents sometimes face situations where they
reasonably decide that having the child remain in the
car is safe enough. The S72 bill would make it a crime
in Rhode Island to leave a child under 7 in a car for
over 5 minutes, even if the child was accompanied by
a 13-year-old sibling.Penalties could include a $1000
fine or a 1-year jail sentence, even if the child was
unharmed.
 .
This bill is too judgmental. Current Rhode
Island law already says that police can issue a warning
to parents in this situation, and that’s better than
having fines or criminal penalties for what are almost
certainly harmless parenting choices.
 .
Also, please share the petition against this bill with
others:
Rhode Island, remember: Punishing the parents who let their kids wait in the car a few minutes will not bring back the children who died after being forgotten in the car for several hours. – L.

.

Do I really have to wake up and start screaming just so I can be next to mom while she gets the pizza? 

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22 Responses to UPDATE: VOTE POSTPONED! Should It Be Punishable by a Year in Jail to Let Your First-Grader Wait in the Car for 6 Minutes?

  1. Emily March 22, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    I shared this on Facebook. I think it’s ridiculous–I spent many, many hours waiting in either one of my parents’ cars over the course of my childhood, and nothing bad ever happened to me. Why can’t people see the difference between allowing a child to wait in the car while you run inside to buy a newspaper, or pick up the Chinese take-out, or escort a younger sibling to the bathroom, and FORGETTING a child in the car while you go to work all day?

  2. theresa March 22, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

    Politicians are stubborn. No matter the subject they don’t know when it not worth fighting over. Yes some things are important but I highly doubt that this is one.

  3. Nicole R. March 22, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

    “Why can’t people see the difference between allowing a child to wait in the car while you run inside to buy a newspaper, or pick up the Chinese take-out, or escort a younger sibling to the bathroom, and FORGETTING a child in the car while you go to work all day?”

    Exactly!!!

    Sometimes, it is actually MORE dangerous to take the kid out of the car than to leave them in it! I bet the odds of being hit by a car while CROSSING the parking lot are far higher than being injured by waiting IN the car.

  4. elizabeth March 22, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

    Beating a dead horse, they are.

  5. JKP March 22, 2017 at 8:31 pm #

    This line really jumped out at me: “even if the child was accompanied by a 13-year-old sibling” because my grandmother was 13 when she had my dad. So what would they have done if she was in the car “supervising” her own child? I think if you’re old enough to have a child of your own, you’re certainly old enough to watch a sibling in a car for 5 minutes.

  6. Emily March 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    >>This line really jumped out at me: “even if the child was accompanied by a 13-year-old sibling” because my grandmother was 13 when she had my dad. So what would they have done if she was in the car “supervising” her own child? I think if you’re old enough to have a child of your own, you’re certainly old enough to watch a sibling in a car for 5 minutes.<<

    Yes. Also, most babysitting courses are designed for young people aged twelve and up, so if a twelve-year-old can babysit a child in a house, why can't a thirteen-year-old watch a child for five minutes in a car?

  7. Jennifer C March 22, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

    The thing about the 13 year-old sibling is oddly specific. I wonder if this based on a certain case? Either way, it’s ridiculous. My siblings and I frequently waited in the car in the ’70s and ’80s and no one thought anything of it–and I was even younger than six.

  8. James Pollock March 22, 2017 at 10:44 pm #

    “if a twelve-year-old can babysit a child in a house, why can’t a thirteen-year-old watch a child for five minutes in a car?”

    Houses have bathrooms, and cars do not.

    My opinion on this subject hasn’t changed: The legislators in RI will do what they thing RI’s voters want them to do. If they guess right, well, it’s the people of RI who have to live with the result. If they guess wrong, the RI voters get another shot at picking legislators.

    Kind of like “parents can pick what they think is best for their children”, magnified. Just because the legislators make choices that are different from ours.

    Obviously, people who actually live in RI can, and should, take more of an interest, whether they want this thing to pass or they don’t.

    To answer the question in the headline (“Should It Be Punishable by a Year in Jail to Let Your First-Grader Wait in the Car for 6 Minutes?”), probably not, but maybe yes… depending on the circumstances.

  9. SKL March 22, 2017 at 11:25 pm #

    James, I get your point, but if any state has an idiotic law and I’m driving through that state, I risk being prosecuted even though I may not have known that stupid law existed. Also, people cite foreign precedent as a “justification” for making a law in their home state. I can hear it now: “why is our state one of only 12 states that don’t require bla bla bla?” It will creep over the whole country slowly.

  10. James Pollock March 23, 2017 at 12:57 am #

    “if any state has an idiotic law and I’m driving through that state, I risk being prosecuted even though I may not have known that stupid law existed”

    Yeah. The people in State A can make stupid laws. These laws apply to everyone in State A… not just the people who voted for it… it applies to the people who voted against it, to the people who aren’t allowed to vote for whatever reason, and visitors to State A.
    But it’s still up to the voters of State A to decide what laws should apply in State A, whether you, or I, or anyone else who isn’t a State A voter thinks it’s stupid.

    “people cite foreign precedent as a ‘justification’ for making a law in their home state.”
    Cite the other 49 as justification for not making a law.
    I live in a state that doesn’t have a sales tax. It’s right next to a state that doesn’t have an income tax. It’s also right next to a state that has both.
    It’s one of a total of 2 states that don’t let people pump their own gasoline. It’s a stupid law, but the people who live here want it that way, and it’s their choice, even if visitors think it’s stupid.

    My sister lives in a state that decided the government needed to get involved in telling people where they’re allowed to pee. I think that’s AMAZINGLY stupid. But… it’s not my state. I’m entitled to my opinion of whether it’s a good law or not. I’m not entitled to have anyone else give a damn what that opinion is.

    Get involved, and STAY involved, in what your own personal state is doing.

  11. Donna March 23, 2017 at 8:23 am #

    Unless you live in Rhode Island, it is completely worthless – and potentially detrimental – to sign any petition concerning this bill. Rhode Island legislators barely care what the people in Rhode Island think about any individual bill unless it is something extremely high profile. Nobody with an otherwise decent track record is going to get voted out for this one minor bill that few will get worked up negatively about so they will vote as it is most advantageous to them. They absolutely don’t care what people in Nevada or California or Illinois or New York think. Filling up a petition with a bunch of irrelevant people just makes the petition look worthless and easy to ignore to the extent that it would ever have had any impact at all.

  12. SKL March 23, 2017 at 9:53 am #

    I agree that signing a petition won’t help, but raising awareness among people in that state might.

    Signing a petition when you aren’t an eligible voter can undermine the cause you think you’re helping, as it can confuse the local advocates into thinking they have enough signatures when they don’t.

  13. Dienne March 23, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    Absolutely. Because a child being deprived of a parent for a year is much better than a child being deprived of a parent for a few minutes.

  14. Diane March 23, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    Lots of people sign unofficial petitions that are not part of a legislative process. I saw one the other day trying to get a company to change its parental leave benefits policy. It probably doesn’t mean anything to the company; just a way to get the word out to the public. Hopefully the people who would be presenting this petition will know the best way to utilize it.

  15. James Pollock March 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    ” agree that signing a petition won’t help, but raising awareness among people in that state might.”

    Though not necessarily the way you want it to.
    Out-of-state lobbying may provoke a backlash.

    For example, a while back Oregon passed a physician-assisted suicide law by popular vote. Some powerful out-of-state interests spent some money and put a repeal on the next ballot. The original passage of the PAS law was fairly close, but the repeal failed by almost 4-to-1.

  16. RebelMama March 23, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

    Signed the move on.org petition with comments and am now off to urge my mom (who totally left me alone at home, in the car, etc) to do the same. 🙂

  17. LGB March 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    My homeschooled daughter is researching the Chinook Indians of the Pacific Northwest. When boys of this tribe turned ten, they had to go out into the wilderness alone for a few days and fast until they had a vision of their unique spirit animals.

    No, I’m not proposing this for our own children.

    I just think if a 10-year-old can figure out a 5-day wilderness excursion without a Scout leader, a 13-year-old Rhode Islander knows enough to open the damn door when it gets too hot in the car.

  18. Barbara March 24, 2017 at 10:15 am #

    A RI reader here – the Senate president stepped down yesterday (unexpectedly – she only announced the day before) and a new leader was elected. I would attribute the cancellation of committee meetings to the events around the leadership change.

    The House version of this bill was held for further study in early February. I did contact my Rep directly, who happens to be on the House Judiciary Committee, and encouraged him to vote against this proposal.

  19. Heresolong March 25, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    James,

    You are assuming that the people of Oregon want the gas pumping law because it hasn’t been repealed. Is it possible that they don’t want the law but that it isn’t a high enough priority that they have replaced legislators in order to effect repeal?

    You refer to a state government becoming involved in who can go to the bathroom where? Are you aware that the actions of the state government were in response to the actions of a city government, which mandated who could go to the bathroom where, including in those bathrooms owned by private businesses.

    Idiotic laws should be opposed wherever they are found by whoever has a lick of common sense. Laws that gain traction do, in fact, get cited as precedent, and the argument that “no one else does it” have little effect on the “but we have to do something” crowd.

  20. James Pollock March 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    “You are assuming that the people of Oregon want the gas pumping law because it hasn’t been repealed. Is it possible that they don’t want the law but that it isn’t a high enough priority that they have replaced legislators in order to effect repeal?”

    Huhwut?
    Oregon has vote-by-initiative. Proposed laws are placed directly on the the ballot without the legislature’s involvement. Oregon’s voters don’t have to replace legislators to effect repeal. Most recently, this occurred when the legislature voted to give driving licenses to illegal immigrants who passed the same driving tests except for producing documents proving citizenship (this was done so that the illegals could obtain insurance, which they currently cannot because they are not licensed drivers). The aroused citizenry repealed by about a 2:1 majority.

    “You refer to a state government becoming involved in who can go to the bathroom where?”
    You know where.

    “Are you aware that the actions of the state government were in response to the actions of a city government”
    Yep.
    Does this make a potty-purity law somehow better? No, it’s still dumb, and it still costing the local economy millions of dollars.

    “Idiotic laws should be opposed wherever they are found by whoever has a lick of common sense.”
    Really? That’s going to keep you busy. There are a LOT of idiotic laws in this world. Sales taxes are stupid and regressive, and my state doesn’t have one. I’m not going to start telling the people who’ve chosen to live in states and countries that have sales taxes that they need to readjust their economy to suit my notion of what’s idiotic.

    I’m going to stick to the general rule that people (collectively) have a right to decide which laws should apply to them, and to change their laws to suit themselves, even if they do so in ways I wouldn’t want for myself. So if the people who live in a city that I don’t live in decide that public accommodations have to have three bathrooms… one for men, one for women, and one for small children who are accompanied by parents or caregivers of the opposite gender, that’s their business, not mine. If they decide that all bathrooms should be open to all people, that’s their business, not mine. Heck, India’s still working on getting everyone to use indoor plumbing.

  21. james pruett March 31, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    A few years back I tried to get funding to build the following:

    Gizmo that fits into the electric window of your car. When the car temperature reaches 100F, it cracks the window 1 inch. It keeps kids safe. It could be donated thru the Lions club or such.

    Hey volunteer orgs. Anyone interested. Take a look at my site and you will see we mean business on safety.

  22. Dingbat March 31, 2017 at 7:53 pm #

    This is ridiculous. Like others in your comment section I am one of many alive (I promise) and non abducted adults who waited in the car while my parents ran into a store in the late 70s & 80s.

    Adam Walsh was around my age and I have not so fond memories of being taken to a large conference room in a community building where several children were being fingerprinted in case of kidnapping and compete mutilation. None of us were ‘napped. Outside of that moment of panic, we still had a pretty normal childhood and most parents did not buy into the (granted, heartbreaking) mantra of hysteria that has been pushed from that moment on. You know the one. “Never leave your child alone, not even for a minute”, which has since been upgraded to a second.

    I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with fearful-hysterical parents and busybodies on previous jobs. I’ve been presented with license plate numbers and been asked to have mothers located and persecuted for parking directly in front of a postal drop box and walking away from their car, as their infant slept in black seat, just long enough to put a package in it. Why? Because they left their child alone for a second. There is a certain kind of satisfaction in telling busybodies that the mantra of hysteria is just that.

    I’ve talked to busybodies who were standing by a locked car parked outside of a grocery store on a cool/rainy day, beating on the window until they woke the sleeping 8 year old inside up. Of course it scares the kid and of course the busybody starts screaming about the horrible parents who left a terrified child alone in the car.

    I’ve even seen people call the police 3 times, back to back, on a parent who was sitting in her brothers vehicle, parked right beside her own car (that was in the shade and had the windows rolled down) as her child slept. The evil bastards were trying not to wake the baby while they talked, and must be condemned for it!

    It’s horrible, hateful and common sense does not apply.

    One thing I have found with officers is that a large number find this absolutely absurd as well, and they will tell busybodies to cut the hysterics. The ones who don’t are generally terrified parents themselves.