HARSHER Penalties for Letting Kids Wait in Cars?


Remember: Any law drawn up in haste on the heels of a tragedy, and/or following a breathless news report, and/or named for a child, and/or with the word “Angel” in its title will be a BAD snatdisynf
It will not be based on any kind of study or rational examination of a problem — or even based on a real problem at all. It will be based on emotion, fury, sadness and a heaping helping of political puffery.

In the case we are looking at today, the trigger was the news report on Wednesday of a Rhode Island mom who left her baby in a car in a “frigid car.” Never mind the fact it was for so short a time that, far from freezing, the baby was actually sweating! And never mind we’re talking about a 10-minute car-wait. STILL the authorities took the tot to the hospital for an evaluation.

Why can’t we evaluate the authorities who hallucinate near-death experiences when all they see in front of them is a warm baby?

Anyway, in the wake of that grandstanding opportunity…er…news story, RI State Sen. Lou Raptakis proposed a law that would fine parents $1000 and have them lose their drivers’ licenses for three years — penalties drawn out of a hat, it seems to me — if they leave their kids under age 7 in the car (an age that seems drawn out of a hat, too).

This proposed legislation pays no heed to the fact that more children die in parking lots than die in parked cars. Nor does it make room for circumstance, or parental judgment. Is it really better to drag triplet toddlers across a dark, icy parking lot to get the cough medicine? Is it really necessary to make a 6-year-old go in with mom to pick up the pizza? Is it really a good idea to turn Rhode Island citizens into busybodies ready to report any imperfect parent to the po-po?

And once again: Do these dire consequences fit the “crime”?

Say you DO let your kindergartener wait in the car while you run in to get your toddler from day care. Should that cost you your license, leaving you with no way to get to your job to make a living to feed those kids of yours? Better they should be plunged into poverty?

Oh how we love to pound and pummel parents. Oh how we love that “For the children!” high. And oh how we love to legislate the minutiae of daily life, as if micromanaging parents is the job we elected huffing, puffing state senators to do. – L



That'll teach you ladies to run an errand before your kids are 18!

That’ll teach you ladies to run an errand before your kids are 18!


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82 Responses to HARSHER Penalties for Letting Kids Wait in Cars?

  1. Caiti January 8, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    If I didn’t have a school aged child right now, I would think all of these stupid laws were just a big joke.

  2. E January 8, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    I agree with the random/arbitrary aspect. I agree with the point you are trying to make.

    But I don’t think “parents” are doing anyone a favor (other parents) when they choose to leave very small children strapped into cars in extreme cold or heat — even if it’s just a few minutes. The time element, of course, is unknown by a passerby. It’s that choice between minding your own business or ‘it takes a village’. The village doesn’t know why the kid is crying or how long they’ve been strapped in there or how long it’ll be before someones comes back.

    The link indicates another dumb law that this law is just trying to keep up with:

    “As state law stands now, one would face a stiffer penalty for leaving a dog in the car rather than a child. Raptakis said he hopes to change that by reintroducing legislation that didn’t get passed last year.

    If a person leaves a pet in the car in Rhode Island, under animal cruelty laws they could be jailed for a year and fined up to $1,000.”

  3. Neil M January 8, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    The problem with these zero-tolerance policies is that they are also zero discretion. I understand that removing discretion from these situations can prevent racial/class/gender bias–and preventing that is a good thing–but unfortunately it often ALSO prevents proportional responses. Thus, the response to a six-year-old left for 5 minutes in a car on a 60-degree day will be the same as that to a three-month-old left for an hour in a car on a 20-degree day. I don’t think that’s very good policy.

  4. bob magee January 8, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    he reveals the arbitrariness of the age cutoff by stating a need to be able to open the car door.

    the driver license thing is just pure evil and shaming – in RI a THIRD DUI will get you a 2 year minimum suspension and a 2nd DUI will max at 2 years suspended.

  5. Rick January 8, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Carrying all this to its logical conclusion (reductio ad absurdum), it’s “child endangerment” to give birth.

  6. MichaelF January 8, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    So first off lets get rid of the parents driver’s license so they can no longer bring their child along when they need to do errands, or even do errands! That seems to just create another subset of problems to me. When it takes more than one DUI to lose your license, why the harsh penalties? Probably to get a parent to plea bargain down.

  7. Roger the Shrubber January 8, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    In a perfect world, the police that took a sweating baby to the hospital for evaluation for hypothermia would be charged with kidnapping.

  8. AmyO January 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    This is so nuts. There is a couple here who left their children in the parking lot on a night in the 20s earlier this week for two hours while they were in a casino. The fact that authorities can’t differentiate between that being a crime and a 5 minute trip into a store is ridiculous. They are treated the same.

    I’m sure it’s pointed out that people get lighter sentences for texting and DUIs.

    My 6 year old always asks to stay in the car, and I tell her no because I’d get arrested. Maybe next year I’ll try it.

  9. Andrea January 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

    Anyone who is in Rhode Island needs to call their representative and explain why this is a bad idea. And then call Sen. Raptakis’s office. Don’t underestimate the power of that phone call.

  10. Rachael January 8, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    The nerve of politicians… He didn’t write that up and release it over night. I would bet that he has had it sitting on the side line just waiting for someone to get caught so that people could be more emotional when he released it.

    Besides, wouldn’t it be safer to leave a child inside who couldn’t unlock the doors? I mean, if they could get the door unlocked surely the next adult male passerby would snatch them up never to be seen again.

  11. Linda January 8, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    Thank you for catching these things early, Lenore.
    Level headed Rhode Island voters need to speak up before it goes to a vote.

  12. John January 8, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    Here we go again, more OVER reaction to an event involving a child. So more child protection laws are now proposed that will actually cause much more collateral damage than they will actually helping children. Unfortunately because of America’s obsession with the OVER protection of our youth, Mr. Raptakis’s proposed law is a slam dunk and will most likely be signed by the Governor. Anybody opposing this law will be deemed a person who does not care about children.

    Folks, it’s gonna get worse and worse and worse. 2017 will usher in even MORE child protection laws and more yet will be passed in 2018, 2019 and beyond.

    So when will a level headed Governor or U.S. Senator finally appear on the scene and say enough is enough is enough and that there are plenty of laws on the books now to protect children? Probably never unless they want to commit political suicide.

  13. Katie January 8, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    If only they would take away the drivers licenses of jaydrivers for three years. One would see a lot less people dying.

  14. Sam January 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    To contact:

  15. Havva January 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    In other news on Wednesday, my preschool daughter exhibited better reasoning skills than a RI state senator.

    I had a super quick errand to grab a repair part. Thanks to the internet I knew exactly what Aisle and bin to find it in. And if I could have left her in the car the trip would have been quicker, because I would have used the order online pick up in store option. My daughter wanted to be left in the car. She doesn’t like the hardware/lumber store (between the forklifts, and people pushing enormous things in carts they can’t see over and can barely steer, I can’t particularly blame her). Besides she was having fun with a little game she made up while I was driving.

    After I coerced her out, got the critical part, and checked out, she started questioning me about why I couldn’t just leave her in the car?
    “Seeing children left in cars frightens people,” I explained.
    “Why?” In the clear voice of a kid prepared to listen to reason.
    I sigh “Because sometimes cars get too hot and kids die in them… remember how we have to open all the doors to let the heat out in summer?”
    Kid “But it isn’t Summer! The car hasn’t gotten hot in a long time.”
    me : “I know, you know, but people get frightened and don’t think like that.”
    kid: “Well, we would keep the doors locked, they wouldn’t be able to get me.” (ah, if only it were that simple kid).
    I sigh again “People can break into cars, and the scared people would call the police. The police would get the car open to get you out. And sometimes cars thieves break in and cars get stolen with kids in them. That scares people too.”
    Kid: “Tell me about that.”
    me: “Well the car thief, thieves usually don’t want to be kidnappers too, so they usually leave the car and kids behind and the police find it. It’s a real surprise for the car thief, one crashed a car recently, I think because he found out he had just kidnapped two kids. The kids must have been wearing seat belts they were okay.”
    Kid: “Tell me a story about that!”

    So I tell her with some pantomiming the one about the thief that stole, then flipped the SUV with two kids in it, and the kids must have been wearing seat belts because they were fine. And the police arrested mom for leaving the kids in the car. http://bit.ly/1Pdxo10…. (I seem to have been wrong, charged is not arrested.)

    So after asking if I had really just said the *mom* got arrested, because that was beyond comprehension to her. She asked if they arrested the kids! Because after all she expected the kids wanted to stay in the car, just like she did. And so arresting them for being car jacked made as much sense to her as arresting their mom for it.

    She asked a flurry of questions about what will happen to that poor family that I just couldn’t answer except to say that CPS would be doing a home inspection (she knows the Ms. Grunion character from Mr. Peabody and Sherman, it doesn’t go well). That mom might go to jail, that the kids might loose their mom for a while over this.

    She spent the next half hour occasionally shaking her head and saying in bewildered tones. “They arrested the mom.”

    I did tell her honestly that I thought the mom had, in my estimation, done something wrong (leaving the car running with the kids in it). But that I still didn’t agree with what is happening to her. We talked about proportional responses, guiding her Socratic style through how it would NOT be okay to punch a friend in the face for knocking down a block tower…. but it would be okay to make them help pick up. However, it would be okay for daddy (or any grown up) to punch someone in the face if that someone tried to steal her from us.

    This is what vindictive laws get us. Situations so inane that pre-shoolers can see they make as much sense as arresting children for being kidnapped. When I was her age I had faith in the police, that they were there to help. Now she knows I drag her around where there are moving forklifts because that won’t get me arrested, but leaving her in a comfortable locked car, could. How does this build a cohesive society?

  16. Katie January 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

    Although not for the reasons it is being suggested I have too say in some ways I don’t hate this. For one thing less people with licenses will help further cause the ridiculous car culture in America to decline. Not to mention a disproportionate number of parents seem to drive ridiculous gas guzzlers and if they lose their ability to drive them because of this well…I don’t know that I agree with the reason, but I can’t say I mind the unintended consequences.

  17. Cynthia812 January 8, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    Katie, I am afraid of people who don’t mind gross injustices as long as the get results they want, especially if the results are only tangentally telated to the issue at hand, if tha.

  18. Brenna January 8, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    Katie, no offense, but that is ridiculous. You seem to assume that everyone has an alternate means of transportation to get to work. That may be the case if you live in a metropolitan area with mass transit, but I live seven miles outside of a town with 1500 people. My car is the ONLY way to get around. So you think it’s reasonable that if I leave a seven year old outside the gas station in this town of 1500 people (last known kidnapping – NEVER) it’s reasonable that I lose my ability to go to work for three years, because you don’t like cars?

  19. lollipoplover January 8, 2016 at 2:37 pm #


    I truly wish Senator Raptakis would address this sombering statististic:

    In Rhode Island in 2011, 38% of all traffic deaths were DUI related.

    Yet RI doesn’t suspend the licenses for DUI on the first offense? I’m dumbfounded. How many chances to you give to a drunk before you take their license and allow 38% of fatalities? Fix THAT, Senator, if you are concerned with safety.

    How many non-moving parking lot deaths were reported among children to demand such a safety measure?
    I don’t see anything on the driving statistics for kids waiting in cars and their apparent peril. Or spontaneous combustion. Show me the numbers, Senator. Otherwise, this law is entirely insulting to savvy and capable 6 year-olds and the parents who love them and trust them…to wait.

  20. Katie January 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    @Cynthia It’s not a gross injustice. Pedestrians being killed by SUVs being driven around for vanity is a gross injustice. Not being able to leave your kid in the car is a minor annoyance.

  21. Katie January 8, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

    @Brenna, It’s unfortunate that issues of cars in areas they aren’t needed aren’t being addressed. While I do understand your situation, with such little being done I have no choice but support anything anti-car even if it is accidental.

  22. Liz January 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    We lived in RI for a few years. Their public transportation is terrible. There is no consistency to the time of the buses, nor any sort of route that takes you anywhere but back to the bus depot. It takes forever to try to get somewhere by bus. So, these “horrible” parents are now going to be taking their small children on bus rides that take several hours just to get to the grocery store. That doesn’t seem better.

  23. Brenna January 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Katie, be reasonable. List of typical car weights:

    Compact car 2,979 pounds 1,354 kilograms
    Midsize car 3,497 pounds 1,590 kilograms
    Large car 4,366 pounds 1,985 kilograms
    Compact truck or SUV 3,470 pounds 1,577 kilograms
    Midsize truck or SUV 4,259 pounds 1,936 kilograms
    Large truck or SUV 5,411 pounds 2.460 kilograms

    I weigh 170 pounds. So I don’t think there’s much less chance of my not being dead if I’m hit with a 2979 pound compact car, as opposed to a 5411 pound SUV. Either hitting me at any speed will kill me.

    I’m with Cynthia. You’re engaging in the absolute worst sort of social engineering. If you don’t like SUV’s fine, don’t buy one. But quit with trying to get rid of driver’s licenses because you don’t agree with vehicle choices. You’d apparently rather put people into eternal poverty than let them have a car you don’t like.

  24. Katie January 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    @Liz Well the question is then, why isn’t anyone pushing for better bus service/public transit? What about those who can’t afford cars or can’t drive for other reasons? Who is their voice?

  25. Katie January 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    @Brenna Be informed. It doesn’t have to do with weight, it has to do with the flat fronts of SUVs verses the more curved fronts of cars. A SUV is over 2x as likely to kill a pedestrian than a sedan (and minivans are only 12 percent more likely to kill a pedestrian) I suggest who check out the book High and Mighty which offers many detailed studies about this.

    And in your honor perhaps the next time I see an unattended child in an SUV I’ll make a phone call.

  26. Katie January 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    @Brenna PS It’s not just a car that I don’t like,it’s a car that is 2x more likely to kill me or my kids when crossing the street.

  27. Brooke January 8, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    In some countries they leave babies outside in the cold in strollers while the moms get coffee.

  28. Catherine Caldwell-Harris January 8, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    @ Havva, wonderful account thanks for posting.

  29. Brenna January 8, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    @Katie, I don’t dispute that SUV’s are more likely to kill, at least at slow speeds, but you’re talking about TAKING AWAY SOMEONE’S ABILITY TO WORK because you don’t like SUVs. What if the person who left the kid in a car is diving an acceptable-to-you hybrid? Is it then okay to NOT take their license? Who gets to decide what the cut-off is? Van’s are more likely to kill, so if they drive a van, it’s only okay if they have four kids, but if they have three kids then you think they should have a sedan, so take away the license. Please.

  30. Katie January 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    @Brenna, I’m not taking away anyone’s ability to work. If the law is you can’t leave your kids in the car, even if it silly and an annoyance, than don’t leave your kids in the car. That is a choice.

    And so I guess from your defense of SUVs I’ll just have to conclude you believe vanity is more important than life. That is really sad.

  31. Warren January 8, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    Has this idiot not seen the Court’s decision from New Jersey that we celebrated no too long ago? If not maybe FRK can send him a copy?

  32. Warren January 8, 2016 at 3:48 pm #


    You really need to stop with your crap. You are actually causing more problems than you think you are solving. Not only do you come off like a lunatic, but you have the opposite effect to what you want.

    I was going to walk down to the store, about two miles one way, just because it is nice out. But instead I am going to go out, fire up my pick up, let the diesel engine warm up for about twenty minutes, get the inside nice and toasty. Then leave it running while I am in the store, stop off at a buddies for a quick chat, leaving it running, and the drive home. So Little Lady, all that use of fuel, and all those emissions are on your head.

    All those lives at risk, from my truck, which is bigger than any SUV, are at risk because of you. Have a nice day and shut up with your damn anti vehicle crap. It is old, tired and you come of like a moron.

  33. Beth January 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    @Brenna, you must not be familiar with Katie, who will turn the conversation to “gas guzzlers” even when it’s not remotely applicable. For some reason, she believes that families shouldn’t be able to choose the vehicle which best meets their needs without her approval.

  34. sigh January 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    Can we just make it so that if a kid comes to HARM in a parked car, then there is an investigation, and if the kid is FINE, we leave it be????

  35. Peter January 8, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    @Brenna — You could always bike… :^D

    As an off-topic, I recently thought it was kind of sad when I saw someone on their bicycle toting an enclosed tent-trailer with their tot inside. I remember the days of “child carriers” on bicycles and seeing little ones strapped in behind Mom, a la the old Peanuts Rerun Strips. Of course, the amusing thing is that Rerun didn’t have a helmet.

    Gee, I wonder what people would do if you left your kid strapped into a bicycle…

  36. Diana Green January 8, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    They actually hate kids, you know. They love their reelection bids. I am furious with Rhode Island Chicken-livered law makers!

  37. Suzanne January 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    I love that you used the term “po-po.” This proposed law is ridiculous. I hope it doesn’t pass.

  38. Donald January 8, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    This is the problem with artificial intelligence. When we legislate out a parent’s ability to use judgement, A.I. is what we get.

  39. lollipoplover January 8, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    “And so I guess from your defense of SUVs I’ll just have to conclude you believe vanity is more important than life. That is really sad.”

    First, this discussion is about parked cars. I don’t know why anyone here is surprised when Katie the SUV-hater adds her Law & Order SUV rant. Second, Katie, I own an SUV. It is not about vanity but practicality as I have 3 big kids (and their gangly friends) plus 3 large dogs and this choice of vehicle fits our family, lifestyle, and travel requirements. End of story.

    I don’t judge others on their choices in house, transportation, or employment. What gives you the right rant with ridiculous prejudice against those who drive larger vehicles? Most of the biggest assholes I know drive a Prius, btw.

  40. Kristin M January 8, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    Three words will fix all these problems….dark. window. tint.

  41. sexhysteria January 8, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    One possible reason parents are being targeted is because going after powerful automakers (whose vehicles kill 10,000+ children/year) instead would be risky for a politician.

  42. Anne January 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    Has anyone found the specific language of the bill? None of the news article I have read quote it, and I received an error message when I tried to read the bill on the Rhode Island state legislature website.

    Is this bill not only raising the penalties, like the news stories state, but actually changing the law so that kids under seven can’t be left in the car for ANY period of time without an adult, not merely a period that creates a substantial risk of harm? Is that being made clear to lawmakers or their constituents? Has anyone even pointed out to the senator that the penalty would be much more severe than driving drunk and endangering children?

    I’ve noticed that legislators who are trying to “save” children often don’t really think through the language of their bills. An effort to make carseat laws in my state much stricter was thankfully quickly defeated because BOTH sides realized the language of the bill that was being rushed through made no sense.

  43. Buffy January 8, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    @Peter, I had a bike cart (not enclosed, but a cart all the same) that I used with both my kids, sometimes together. It was great; I had no idea it was “sad”.

  44. Bill F January 8, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    Parents, their just too dangerous to be allowed around children.

  45. James Pollock January 8, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    Can we all relax a bit, and take the time to remember that just because one desperate-for-attention politician thinks something would make a swell law, that vast majority of stupid laws get sent to a committee which promptly buries it beyond the light of day?

    If you get yourself all in a lather over every stupid idea that some pol tries to float as a bill, you’ll never have time for anything else.

  46. David (Dhewco) January 8, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

    I haven’t seen much mention that this law won’t actually save lives. The kids that die are the ones that get forgotten. The distracted father who forgets he was supposed to take the kid to the sitters’/daycare or the mother who left the kid in the Wal-Mart on a hot day while she shopped for hours and forgot it was a balmy 80 degrees outside, but in the car it climbed to over a hundred. Or switch the parents in those scenarios. If you forget the kid exists, all the laws in the world won’t save them.

    Also, it’s not going to save the parents of the ‘only for a few minutes crowd’ from going to jail either. Either they don’t think about the law, or they don’t think they’re doing wrong…so, they’re going to break the law.

    As others have mentioned, this law will have parents fighting for their freedom, mobility, and their jobs. It will have children needing welfare. Just my opinion.

  47. Anna January 8, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    “As an off-topic, I recently thought it was kind of sad when I saw someone on their bicycle toting an enclosed tent-trailer with their tot inside.”


    My son and I regularly travel using our bike-trailer both for practical errands and fun outings. He certainly seems to enjoy it, as do his friends who come along from time to time and say how much more fun it is than riding in their cars (strapped into car-seats within an inch of their lives in their 67-point harnesses). I assume the fresh air and sunshine have something to do with that.

    What exactly is so evil and soul-killing about a bike trailer?

  48. bmommyx2 January 9, 2016 at 12:58 am #

    OMG, I totally agree. There seems to be so much reactionary legislation all across this country. I’m on the opposite coast & it’s really bad here in California. Some if the legislation I believe is created & lies in wait ready for action at the first a tragedy or news story on the related topic. Without getting too much off topic perfect examples are gun laws that a proposed within days of a tragic event or even the same day. I also think some of these people who propose these asinine laws either are not parents, don’t have younger children or are not the day to day caregiver & have no clue what reality is. Recently out here a baby was in a car when it was stolen & later found abandoned safely in the car in a parking lot. While I don’t blame mom & she was a few feet away the keys were in the car. Even when I pump gas I close & lock the car & keep the keys on me. Of course someone told me they could break in & steal it in a matter of second. Yeah right. We need to get these bozos out of office ASAP

  49. Cassie January 9, 2016 at 4:40 am #

    I have always left my kids in the car when the car is in plain view (this includes petrol stations, the local butcher, and the local fruit shop). Occasionally they will get left in the car when the view is not so great – ie I parked in the street 3 shops down, and I am buying a cake at the bakery for morning tea. I can’t see the car while I am making my purchase, but I can see the car from the doorway of the shop.

    I have a 4 and 6year old.

    Last month I even went so far as to leave them both in the car for 10 minutes while I was completely out of view. It was at a small plaza and the car was parked 3 rows away from the entrance, and I was going inside a proper supermarket. But I assessed the risk. It was 5pm in the afternoon during an Australian Spring (so the temperature in the car was never going to get too hot or too cold, even with all the windows locked tight). It was pouring rain… the type of rain that has all the shoppers standing under the eaves refusing to even go to there car. I needed bread and lunch meat.

    I figured in the worse case scenario (me dying somehow inside the supermarket) they would be stuck in the car until late at night when the store would be closing. If no one noticed them then, then they would notice them when they arrived at 5am – uncomfortable, and hungry, but still safe.

    I couldn’t imagine anything happening to them that would warrant me dragging them out into that rain, we would have all been completely drenched… especially me trying to buckle up kids while standing in the rain.

    My friends are all shocked that I did it… but I am not sure what they thought would happen.

  50. Cassie January 9, 2016 at 4:43 am #


    The important thing about your car left story (and I have heard several similiar) is that the car is found safely abandoned somewhere that it can be found (ie a service station). Because being a criminal does not mean that you want to steal a child. Loads of criminals are in fact really nice people – they don’t want to steal children.

    They want a joy ride, not a life sentence in prison.

  51. Jens January 9, 2016 at 6:20 am #

    I hate to say it…but i think it would make sense for parents of a child who was harmed in a parking lot accident to lobby for children to be allowed to remain inside the car.

    Children coming to harm inside parked cars during an errand are freak cases. Those children who come to harm mostly entered the car on their own without the parents knowledge in the driveway and locked themselves in, or they were forgotten by the parents upon returning home.
    Leaving a kid in the car during a quick errand bears neither of these risks. The only plausible thing that could happen there is that the parent drops dead inside the store with a heart attack – but if this were a significant threat, then people shouldn’t be allowed to be single parents, as this also could happen in their home.

    On the contrary, two energetic four years old twins running circles around the car in the busy parking lot while the mom is strapping the toddler into the stroller is a much higher risk.

  52. Suzanne Lucas January 9, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Katie, I don’t own a car. I have a valid license and rent a car about once a month, but otherwise, I use public transportation. It’s awesome. Clean, safe, efficient. I’m writing this on a train right now.

    Of course, I live in Switzerland. A very small country with lots of money and fabulous infrastructure.

    I’m an American and everywhere I’ve ever lived in the US required a car. Even when I lived where the grocery store was only 1.5 miles away–an easy walking distance–I always drove. Why? Because to get there you had to go down a road with no shoulder and no sidewalks where the speed limit was 40 mph but people routinely went much faster. It was very dangerous.

    Why don’t you move to Europe? Very few SUVs and then you don’t have to worry so much about getting hit by one.

    You’ll have to learn a new language, but that should be no problem for someone who feels so passionate about something. Right?

  53. BL January 9, 2016 at 7:16 am #

    ” I own an SUV. It is not about vanity but practicality as I have 3 big kids (and their gangly friends) plus 3 large dogs and this choice of vehicle fits our family, lifestyle, and travel requirements. ”

    That sort of lifestyle used to be accommodated with station wagons. But transporting children the old-fashioned way in station wagons is no longer legal, so SUVs have taken their place.

  54. Roger the Shrubber January 9, 2016 at 7:52 am #

    I think that this is Katie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsAti31IlJY

  55. E January 9, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    @BL — well I grew up in a family of 8 (6 kids) so the “old fashioned” way wouldn’t work as a standard manner of transporting us. We always had a VW Van, which I guess was really the first “mini van”.

  56. Warren January 9, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    Went on a roadside call at midnight, and my diesel idled at the spot fot 2 hours, then had another call it idled there. Decided to do a client’s yard check, and it idled there. Just got back to the shop. That big ass diesel ran for 8 1/2 hours straight. Just thought you would like to know.

  57. lollipoplover January 9, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    I would looove a big family truckster to drive to Wally World! We had one growing up with the rear facing back seat. But a gas guzzling SUV is what I drive these days. My kids bike to school and I work from home so I don’t do a ton of driving, but nothing beats it for travel and carpooling.

    If driving an SUV makes me a jerk, the studies certainly don’t back it up:


  58. Kimberly January 9, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    I’m just curious. Has anyone ever heard/read a news story in which a child died from exposure after being left in a car intentionally by a parent who was doing a quick errand?

    I can recall kids being forgotten. I can recall kids being left while a parent goes gambling, meets up for an affair, drinking, and/ or getting drugs…but not running an errand.

  59. pentamom January 9, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    E, FWIW, there used to be 9-passenger station wagons — three rows of three seats. And I think with those, there were (or could have been) seatbelts for everybody.

  60. pentamom January 9, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    Lollipop, I just have to say “Law and Order SUV” made me laugh out loud.

  61. Peter January 9, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    @Buffy, sorry–no offense intended.

    In this case, it was a tent. Enclosed. You had a little door/window facing the back end of the bike and that was about it. The kid sat inside, protected from the beautiful day.

    Now, I didn’t get any details. I was stopped at the head of the trail going south when he came along going north. He stopped and said a few things to the kid inside the tent and then went to refill his water bottle. I was ready to head off so I didn’t see if he let the kid out of the tent or not. The kid seemed pretty young–maybe 2 or so.

    It just seemed sad that on a glorious day like that, here’s this kid getting towed around by his Dad sitting in a tent where he can’t see out except for the back-end of a bicycle. Again, I don’t have the details–maybe the kid has a skin condition or something and this was down by the beach.

  62. Peter January 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

    And regarding the SUV debate…

    Years ago, I was at a meeting with our local roadster club and one person was lamenting that his wife was making him get rid of his two-seater roadster and making him buy an SUV because “It was safer.”

    I said, “If she’s concerned about safety, she should get a sedan.”

    SUVs are considered trucks, in regards to government safety regulations. and therefore have more relaxed safety regulations. My particular favorite is that they have weaker requirements in the event of a roll-over accident, even though SUVs are more likely to roll-over because their center of gravity is higher. They have a stronger frame (you don’t want your truck to collapse if you put 1000 pounds in the back) which weighs more and needs a bigger engine to pull it around which means worse gas mileage.

    Don’t get me wrong, though–they’re convenient as hell and don’t have the negative image of minivans (which are passenger vehicles and more stringently regulated).

    So, yeah, if you want to spend money on a convenient vehicle that is less safe and more expensive to run, go for it! I’m sure you have a good reason.

  63. Beth January 9, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Just like formula feeding doesn’t made someone a bad mom, choosing a vehicle that suits your family’s needs doesn’t make someone a bad parent or person. Would it be that much better for the environment if large families took two sedans every time they wanted to go somewhere together?

  64. Papilio January 9, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    Well… I’m all for finding alternatives to car( trip)s, but this law clearly isn’t the way to achieve that…! It just causes a lot of practical problems for individuals, instead of giving large groups of people an acceptable alternative and then perhaps nudge them into it.
    Besides, Katie, aren’t you contradicting yourself when you first say people should just take their kids with them into stores – dragging them across parking lots – and then complain SUVs are more likely to kill pedestrians (such as kids in parking lots)?

    I see very few SUVs indeed and they are frowned upon here by most people, as it’s pretty moronic (if not asocial)to drive such a large vehicle in a country with lots of narrow streets (= just wide enough for two sedans to pass each other, if one sort of parks or uses a junction to make room, that is), narrow lanes, small parking spaces, etc etc.
    I do see plenty of parents cycling with kids, usually in seats on the parent’s bike itself and not in a trailer, but I’ve never seen a kid left on a bike while the parent was inside the shop! The thought makes me laugh 🙂

    @Warren: I hope you’re just SAYING those thing to Katie to rile her up and not doing it for real… I don’t want to sound like a tree-hugging zealot, but I DO live below sea level, so your stories make me cringe!

  65. Backroads January 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    I live in Utah. All us Mormon moms drive SUVs or minivans. The minivan is still very much in vogue here.

  66. E January 9, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    @Kimberly — I don’t think I’ve ever read of a child dying after a temporary stint in the car while parent ran errands. However, that doesn’t mean a lot because the standard for child neglect begins far sooner than death. Also doesn’t take into account if someone intervenes if they observe a child in distress, we don’t know what the natural conclusion would be if the period of time is interrupted.

    Using the wine tasting DC parents as an example — their kids did not die, but they sat strapped in a shaded car on a cold day, with a freezing temp wind chill, long enough that someone reported it and the police arrived (my recollection was that it was close to a half hour and they were still in the bar). Can we presume the parents were just about to come out? I guess. But we really don’t know how long they would have left them.

    Having said all that — I understand your point and I think it’s a valid consideration.

  67. Warren January 9, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

    This whole debate on vehicle type is laughable. Our money, we worked for it, and we will buy whatever damn car, bike, SUV or truck we want. Why? Because we can. And for anyone like Katie that is going to judge and protest about it? Sucks to be you, don’t ever ask for one of your friends to use their truck to help you do something.

  68. CrazyCatLady January 10, 2016 at 1:07 am #

    I have an 82 Suburban (with the extra back seat so we can seat 9), a 95 Astro Mini Van that seats 8 (our only with an airbag), a 76 Station Wagon that seats 9, a 68 Tempest that holds 6, a 52 Pontiac that seats 5 and we are working on a 52 Studebaker.

    My first car was 66 station wagon, then a 76, then a 78. My smallest car was either the 74 Duster or the 74 Scout, both seated 5. The Scout had 4WD and an awesome winch. After that, a 85 Suburban and the other vehicles that I mentioned.

    The only thing that I have wounded was a fence post in Montana when I hit some black ice with my Duster. It was a sad day for the Duster. It was never the same after that. I had a couple of accidents caused by other people with the Scout…no one hurt…they didn’t give me enough braking distance. A Suburban was rear ended when I stopped for people in a crosswalk…and the driver behind me didn’t. The van that hit me was damaged way more than I was…I didn’t bother to get insurance as it was her fault and I had no damage. I am glad that my big vehicle was not pushed into the people walking across the street.

    I have never killed anyone despite driving large vehicles for most of my driving life. Never had a ticket, either. Right now, I drive the van. I like the tall vehicles so that I can see people better. The Duster and the Pontiac are sweet drives and turn heads, but I hate being where I can’t see as well and stop if needed. And most of the time, I have a number of people in the van. Consider that I may be doing a good thing by not forcing the manufacture of yet another new vehicle to deplete resources. Mine may not get the best mileage, but they get the best they can for their age.

    And yes, I leave my kids in the car, with instructions to come inside if anyone bothers them. Before, when we were in CA and the law was 12, I didn’t. but WA says I just can’t leave them in front of a bar. And that isn’t gong to happen anyhow.

  69. Warren January 10, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    I love those old big ass Suburban’s. My dad had one, and I swear it was bigger inside than my first apartment.

  70. lollipoplover January 10, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    “Just like formula feeding doesn’t made someone a bad mom, choosing a vehicle that suits your family’s needs doesn’t make someone a bad parent or person.”

    The ways to judge and shame parenting choices is endless. Didn’t breast feed? Obviously you don’t love your baby enough. Leave a 6 year-old in a car for a short errand? You’re a lazy parent that shouldn’t even have kids if you can’t bother to take them with you in the store. Drive a giant SUV that mows down pedestrians? You are a vain and lazy parent to drive such a large vehicle.

    So many choices, so much to shame and blame.

  71. JP Merzetti January 10, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    Well, I don’t hate SUV’s or anything really, in particular, that rolls.
    What gives me the shivers altogether (though I’ve never been gang-booed in here for expressing this) is just this:
    The child’s life spent in cars (formerly known as the child’s life spent virtually anywhere and everywhere EXCEPT for cars.)

    And this is due entirely and absolutely to our modern and progressive era. The one that produced a design and utility of public space.
    The space we all have to figure out how to live in without succumbing to premature dementia.

    Sometimes I am still quite capable of deriving a certain measure of comfort, that comes from the perspective of my age. Having lived a kid’s life of bliss, it causes me to be capable of accurately remembering things I wish not to forget. (that dangerous longterm memory, don’tcha know.) And raising free-range before it knew itself – that, too.

    Fact: kids are constantly in cars because there is no other proper rational choice.
    Fact: cars do present certain dangers in certain ways to kids.
    Fact: Our various polities in all their wonderment are indeed, grappling with the first two facts – and far too often falling upon their collective faces into the cesspools of idiocy in which they are capable of doing intended (or unattended, as the case may be) harm.
    Greater harm in fact, than the perceived risks they wish to address.

    I suppose any rushed and harried mom (and the odd dad) who has to wrestle with all the various accoutrements of modern automotive child safety – will find themselves committing small acts of passive rebellion every time they choose an easier path to a solution of the problem at hand, and just leave the kids in the car.

    On those rare occasions where I was ever actually in a situation as a kid – that I had the glorious opportunity of being left IN a car…it was all considered normal as hot dogs on Sunday.
    Perhaps therein, lies the problem.
    Perhaps we are all poised on the brink of welcoming in a new normal, like it or not.
    And does that bode for over-reaction, punishment that does not fit the crime, punitive militaristic court-martial mentality?
    It certainly does.

    The more the “little” people are just shuggin’ and shiftin’ and trying to get by….the more forces beyond them swoop in to shoot up their happy little world.
    Danger lurks however it may do so, in the real and physical world….
    or far larger and more deadly wearing the face of ideology that does not match that real world so well, any more.

  72. Warren January 10, 2016 at 7:57 pm #


    A man with a big Hummer was in the Country Club parking lot patiently waiting for another member to back out of a parking spot. Just as the man cleared his spot, a youngster in a little hybrid whipped into the spot.
    The man in the Hummer shouted out, “I was waiting for that spot.”
    The young guy from the hybrid just laughed at him, “You gotta be small and quick to do that.”
    The man in the Hummer dropped it into 4 wheel drive, gunned the big engine and drove up and over. Parking his Hummer on top of the hybrid. He calmly got his clubs out, and when he walked past the younger guy told him, ” You gotta be big and rich to do that.”

  73. lollipoplover January 11, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    “I don’t want to sound like a tree-hugging zealot, but I DO live below sea level, so your stories make me cringe!”

    I may sound like a tree-hugging zealot too when I say it’s not “what” Americans drive but “how” they drive. Car Culture and driving kids door to door has become so normalized.

    The typical drop-off/pick-up car line at our school is a drive- thru.
    Most elementary school car lines have all kinds of cars (SUV’s,minivans, daycare vans) idling in long lines that clog traffic in all directions. All want to hit the magical 15 minute window to avoid having to walk them into the building and finding a parking spot that doesn’t exist as the lot is always full.

    We also have the hoards of parents who defy the line nonsense and drop off in or near the school and wait (idling engines again) on side streets and park illegally near the rear of the school to intercept their kid quickly. Personally, I think they are my children’s #1 danger when they bike and walk to school. The bikers who continue in cold temperatures are stopped by *concerned* parents who offer them rides and ask if they are cold and ask them why they aren’t wearing a winter coat (because they layer with hoodies as the exertion warms them up quickly).

    And most school bus stops in the morning are not a group of kids huddling in the cold, they are clusters of SUVs and minivans idling their warm cars and jamming the intersection so their child can be at the proper temperature or to keep them dry (because wearing a raincoat or using an umbrella are obsolete?) at all times. It’s this type of culture that truly worries me the most.

  74. Brian January 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Nothing wrong with the bike trailer, that is how my kids get around before they are strong enough to ride themselves. They are great these days, with plenty of windows for the kids to see out. A tent? Yes, however you do want to have some sort of cover on the front of them. All kinds of stuff is thrown up from a bike tire. Mud, rocks, water, even large bird droppings.

    They are way better than a child seat on a bike. First, they are safer all around. Lower center of gravity, lower chance of tip overs, better handling when the child gets wiggly, and motorist will also give more room passing as well. But, they also allow a friend, toys, blankies, snacks to come along, and space to move around and look out the sides. Sure they are looking at the back of a bike, but that isn’t as wide as the person much higher up pedaling. Then it isn’t in the way when you are not using it, or preventing racks and bags being put on your bike.

  75. Brian January 11, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    I have only seen one case where children came into serious conflict while staying in the van. In my area a mom left her kids in the car to go pay for something at the gas station. A moment later another driver high on drugs came screaming through the area, lost control, jumped a curb, and rear ended the van the kids were in. As I told Lenore via a tweet, leaving them in the car probably saved their lives. If the mom stopped and took the time to get the kids out then they would have been next to the van (and outside its protective cage) when all this happen and probably killed. Social media was having a mom-bbq about this but I have not heard if the law gave her grief.

  76. Michelle January 11, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    @Suzanne Lucas:
    “I’m an American and everywhere I’ve ever lived in the US required a car. Even when I lived where the grocery store was only 1.5 miles away–an easy walking distance–I always drove. Why? Because to get there you had to go down a road with no shoulder and no sidewalks where the speed limit was 40 mph but people routinely went much faster. It was very dangerous.”

    I prefer to walk as much as possible. I live in the suburbs of Houston (very car-centric!), and I still walk to the grocery store because I enjoy it. But there is very little else within walking distance. Our local library is only 2 miles away. My husband and I easily walk that distance in the mornings just for fun, so I thought it would be easy. A 2 mile walk, circling our neighborhood and walking up and down the streets, takes 30-45 minutes. The one time I tried walking to the library, it took almost 3 hours. Turns out, trying to walk on the steeply slanted side of ditch beside the road, staying far enough away from cars whizzing by at 60mph (speed limit is 35-40) while also trying to stay out of the water in the bottom of the ditch, is exhausting. It’s untenable, and impractical, ESPECIALLY with children. It was impossible to pull a wagon or push a stroller in the ditch, so I had to wear my toddler while everyone else walked. We stopped at a restaurant about halfway there, and I almost cried when I found out how much farther we had to go. And then, the Sonic by the library wouldn’t take my debit card, so I couldn’t even buy everyone a drink. 🙁 Never again, never, never, never.

    Biking would also be impossible. People around here are openly aggressive to bikes, viewing them as jerks who don’t belong on the road.

  77. Papilio January 12, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    @lollipoplover: “I may sound like a tree-hugging zealot too when I say it’s not “what” Americans drive but “how” they drive. Car Culture and driving kids door to door has become so normalized.”

    Yes, certainly, although we all know that some cars are more efficient than others, so I’d say it’s still *a* factor. (Sorry 🙂 )
    Anyway, the “how” (and why) is why I also mentioned car *trips* in my first sentence… Many (very) short trips are still done by car, why is that? Partly because of heavy/bulky loads or multiple young kids. Partly because of paranoid/lazy parents, like you describe. Partly because of dreadful conditions for any other mode than the car, like Michelle describes.
    And that brings me back to the importance of decent infrastructure for walking and cycling… I know, I sound like a broken record 🙂

  78. Warren January 12, 2016 at 2:24 pm #


    It is hard to compare Europe to North America when it comes to vehicles. Cultures are so very different.

    I have had friends and family come over from Europe and they were overwhelmed by the grocery load on Saturdays. We here other than some few perishables or special items, shop for groceries once a week and that’s it. Compared to my European circle that does it daily or every second day. Heck when all three kids were home our bill weekly was darn near $300.00. That includes the pet stuff though.

  79. Papilio January 12, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    @Warren: You have out-of-town supermarkets where the big trucks drop off the goods and where everyone drives to to get their groceries once a week. (Right?)
    We have out-of-town distribution centers where the big trucks drop off the goods, smaller trucks (so you don’t get 18-wheelers in city centers or residential streets > traffic safety) go to to transport the goods to all of the small grocery stores in people’s neighborhoods, where those people then bike/walk/drive to to get their groceries 1-7 times a week.

    So… It’s not really about comparing vehicles. (Or maybe I misunderstood. It’s late.)

  80. Another Katie January 12, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    In adjacent Connecticut, I haul our 2 year old out of her carseat and into the school cafeteria to pick up our 5 year old at the after school care program. I park directly outside the cafeteria, which has wide windows. The vehicle is never out of my sight and I’m inside for 5 minutes at most. On a rainy or snowy day (like today) it’s a real pain and the whole pickup would go faster if I didn’t have to go through the process of unbuckling, carrying her in, corralling her inside while the big kid gets her stuff, carrying her back out, and then having to strap the little one back in.

    I do this because we live in a town where a couple of years ago the cops arrested a mother for leaving a very non-distressed 11 year old in the car at the child’s request while she ran into a pharmacy, and I occasionally see a police cruiser in the school parking lot while a cop does paperwork. I don’t think our 2 year old would be harmed in any way by staying in a 5-point harness in a comfortably warm, locked car on a snowy day for 5 minutes while I run in to get her sister – but there’s no way I’m willing to risk it.

  81. Jonathan January 13, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    It seems that most laws and regulations enacted in the past half century in the United States serve not to punish actual harm done, or the intent to do harm, but to punish the potential to do harm. This is yet another law that does the same.

    Stop it. Already. Unless you can show intent to harm or resultant harm don’t punish people for exercising their liberties just because there is potential for harm.

  82. James Pollock January 14, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    “Stop it. Already. Unless you can show intent to harm or resultant harm don’t punish people for exercising their liberties just because there is potential for harm.”

    Allow me to present an opposing view.
    A guy in a parking lot shooting a gun randomly, not at anyone, but not avoiding anyone, either.
    A guy with a BAC of .2% coming out of a bar and getting into a car to drive himself home.
    A guy on the top of a tall building, tossing baseball-sized rocks over the side, without checking to see if there’s anyone below..
    A guy shining a pocket laser at airplanes landing at the airport, to see if he can tell when he hits one.

    You’d wait until someone gets shot, run over, brained with a falling rock, or has an airplane crash into their house because the pilot was blinded, before seeing a crime? You’d have nothing between “no harm, no foul” and “depraved indifference murder”? (Bang! miss… no crime. Bang! miss… no crime. Bang! head shot. 20-to-life.)