N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Outlawing Kids Under 8 Waiting in Cars

Hi idsesihasf
Readers — My very own state — New York — just passed an overprotective, unnecessary, parental-decision-damning bill. Here’s the scoop, according to the Queens Chronicle:

In order to better ensure child safety, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill on Feb. 29 that would make it illegal for parents or guardians to leave children under the age of 8 alone in a motor vehicle. Multiple infractions would constitute a misdemeanor.

The bill applies to any person legally charged with care of a child and states that they cannot be left alone or with anyone under the age of 12, “under conditions which would knowingly or recklessly present a significant risk to the health or safety of the child.”

The problem is that what I consider a “significant risk” may be quite different from what the authorities consider a “significant risk.” So even if I think my 7-year-old can wait in the car, reading a comic book, while I go in to buy stamps, someone else with a badge or gavel might consider that treacherous. After all, what if there’s a carjacking? What if the child is snatched? What if the car overheats in ten minutes and somehow my kid can’t figure out how to open the door? Or (to paraphrase some folks interviewed in the Queens Chronicle article): What if the state needs to make money and penalizing my parenting decisions is an easy way to grab it?
I understand the actual issue driving this particular law: Trying to save children from being forgotten in the car and left to die a horrible death by hyperthermia. But it’s not as if anyone MEANS to forget their child in the car all day. So saying, “Forget your child and you will get a ticket!” is not likely to have a bigger effect than, “Forget your child and he may DIE.”
As I’ve said before on this topic, the best way to keep your kids safe is to put your purse, briefcase, phone and/or wallet in the back seat next to the car seat. That way, even if somehow you WERE about to forget your sleeping infant (which is the way most of the deaths happen), now you will open the back door and see him/her there.  My new motto: Make sense, not laws. — L.

Kids! Cars! Are they ever safe while waiting in one?

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110 Responses to N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Outlawing Kids Under 8 Waiting in Cars

  1. legalmist March 26, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Holy moly, what a ridiculous law. So now you have to drag four kids under the age of 8 into the quick mart to get that gallon of milk, because you sure can’t leave them at home for 15 minutes (if you can’t even leave them in the car where you can see them, is it now reasonable to think it’s ok to leave them at home where you can’t see them? of course not!!) and now you can’t even legally leave them in the car in full view of the entire store while you run in for 3 minutes to buy the milk…. but wait!! what if the quick mart is robbed while you’re in there?!? Oh, shoot … quick! Let’s enact a law that says you can’t take your kids into a quick mart either — you’ll just have to drag all those kids through the grocery instead, because it’s less likely to be robbed!

  2. Sarah March 26, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Looks like I’ll be breaking the law.

  3. skl1 March 26, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    I don’t think it’s illegal here, but it’s a de facto no-no since the cops distributed a threatening letter to the parents at my kids’ daycare. Which is about as ridiculous as can be, when you think about it. No parent goes into a daycare center and hangs around all day, with or without babies in the car. The whole point of daycare is to drop off your kids so you can go take care of other business. It’s pretty much impossible for a baby to die in the amount of time a parent stays away from the car. And the parents who leave their kids in the car are doing it for good reason. Like the couple who had the hyper twins who needed to be brought out and secured into their car seats one at a time so they would not dash in front of moving vehicles. Or the mom who needs to pick up her tot when her infant is asleep. Do lawmakers forget that moms have only two arms? The times I’ve done this, one of my kids was sick and not allowed to attend “school.” It seems the cops did not give much thought to “why” parents make this choice, nor whether it really endangers kids.

    On a general note, I don’t understand how parents get all sentimental for their kids’ early years. I love seeing them grow up – partly because it means these arbitrary rules will become irrelevant to me that much sooner.

  4. CrazyCatLady March 26, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    In CA it is illegal for ages under 7. It was a royal pain in the butt with my 3 kids. I did not, however, take them all out when I was paying cash for gas. I had one who was a runner, impulsive, and has auditory possessing issues that is, you say “STOP!” and 10 seconds later it gets through to him what I said. 10 seconds is a long time when a car is coming.

    Thank goodness here in WA it is only illegal to leave them in the car if you are parked in front of a bar (and presumably you are inside.)

    If we go to NY, at least my daughter is old enough to stay with her brother, although she probably wouldn’t want to.

  5. mollie March 26, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    In the name of safety. Please. Think about what you are legislating!

    I’d love to see stats on the following:

    How many children under age 8 are injured or die each year in cars while they are moving

    How many children under age 8 are injured or die each year in cars while they are parked

    How many children under age 8 are injured or die each year traversing parking lots

    My gut tells me (and my gut is not particularly influenced by the media or old wives’ tales or urban myths) that more children by far come to harm exiting cars into a parking lot than come to harm remaining in the car unsupervised. My gut also tells me that more children come to harm in vehicles that are moving than vehicles that are parked.

    So here’s my question: if your goal is to support safety, and more children are harmed in moving vehicles or parking lots than in parked cars, what laws make the most sense? Why not make it illegal to transport children in cars? Why not make it illegal to walk with them across a parking lot? I mean, statistically speaking, are we “protecting” kids from anything when we forbid parents to leave them in the car for between 4 and 30 minutes?

    This has been an issue for me in the past, having people tut-tut at me because my kid was in the car while I dashed in for some milk at the store. I bristled with rage, realizing that it was usually the parents from a past generation doing the tut-tutting, and I can imagine that most if not all of them left their kids in the car for a few minutes back in the day. “Oh, but things are so different now!” Yes, indeed, they are much safer: back in the day, you didn’t even need a car to start the ignition if it wasn’t locked! You could get the car out of park and into gear and end up rolling away back then! Nowadays it’s far harder for a kid to come to harm inside a car!


    Lenore, thank you again for giving us all a place to have a sense of shared reality. Man, do I love this online community.

  6. mollie March 26, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Um, that’s “didn’t even need a KEY to start the ignition.”


  7. Sarah March 26, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    I just can’t keep my mouth shut about this issue. I think I have written about it on here before actually. I have to leave 2 of my kids in the car 3 times a week when I pick up my other 2 at preschool. The school is an all glass storefront that stands alone from all other buildings AND my kids classrooms are in front of the door. I park right in front (10 feet away?) of the huge glass doors/windows and wait about 3 feet inside for the boys. I don’t take the kids in because they are all under 4. My stroller won’t fit through the door easily if I have to hold the boys hands, which I do or else they’ll run out into the parking lot. It is absolutely safer to leave them in their car seats for the 3 minutes I’m out of the car than to try and navigate 4 kids under 4. Yet I get the nastiest looks from other moms. They can’t freeze/over heat because the car isn’t off long enough. The doors are locked so no one can get in, even though the only people there are there to pick up their own kids and at any given time there’s only like 20 moms there at most. Whatever… I’ll take my scolding and be on my way. I refuse to risk my kids safety to appease some ridiculousness. If I’m ever approached by a police officer I’ll ask him or her how they would go about doing it!

  8. Michelle March 26, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    This is absolutely ridiculous. I live in Houston, a place that gets *very* hot in the summer. There are days when leaving a small child alone in a car for even ten minutes could be very dangerous. But anybody who has ever gotten into a car in Houston on a summer day — even a car left in the shade — already *knows* how hot it gets. Anybody with half a brain would not *intentionally* leave a child in the car under those conditions. And I can’t see any reason why a person who *did* intentionally leave their child in a hot car couldn’t be punished under already existing laws.

    The only purpose for such a law is to give authorities the power to meddle in the affairs of reasonable parents (ie, those who left their kid in a car at a reasonable temperature for a reasonable amount of time), and to punish parents who have made a tragic mistake.

  9. skl1 March 26, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Need I add that we live where it is usually cold outdoors?

    I actually spent some time on a website that listed every child who died from being left in a car over several years. The temps were at least in the 90s and each of the kids was left in the car for hours (usually forgotten, tragically). It is horrible to think of, but if you DO take the time to “think” about it, it’s obvious that it’s almost always perfectly safe to leave a baby in a car while running a brief errand. It would make more sense to provide education for those rare cases when cars do heat up quickly, than to make a blanket law punishing everyone in all circumstances.

  10. linvo March 26, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    *So saying, “Forget your child and you will get a ticket!” is not likely to have a bigger effect than, “Forget your child and he may DIE.”*

    So true!

    We only have one state in Australia that has a law regarding this, it seems. Western Australia. It is only a crime if “they are likely to suffer emotional distress or temporary or permanent injury to health” though, which is pretty vague too, especially the emotional distress part. I am sure I have left my child in the car crying at times. Usually over something like me not agreeing to buying her a softdrink or chocolate bar!

    I sometimes leave my child in the car on hot days – in the shade! – with all the windows wide open for 10 minutes. But of course that puts her at risk of being snatched. *rolls eyes* If it is too hot to leave her in the car, she is allowed to wait for me on her own outside the shop. *Shock horror!*

  11. Clair Dickson March 26, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Useless legislation. Not only does it create a safety-issue where one did not exist, but it makes for political fluff that politicains can hang their hats on– and, imho, distract certain groups of voters from real issues. They can trump around about their silly safety mandates and reactionary named-after-a-tragedy-laws and the educational bull plus a few hot topics, and people won’t pay attention to the pork, the pick-pockets and the serious issues.

    Plus, it exacerbates the them v. us mentality that already has people turning against each other in ways that are disheartening to me.

  12. CrazyCatLady March 26, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Sarah, when the police or another parent talks to you about this (but hopefully won’t,) I would ask them to demonstrate to you how, exactly you are supposed to do this. Let them try it out with your kids. Now, given that kids tend to behave better for other people, I would also tell my kids that if you say that, they are act normal and do exactly what they normally do – run to the car without looking either way!

  13. Paige Roper Norman March 26, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    I’ve been waiting for someone to post something on this very subject…about three weeks ago my 7th grader asked me to drop off a piece of homework he’d forgotten (which I don’t do very often, but this time he’d put a lot of work into it and the morning rush had been a bit crazy). I dropped two of my elementary kids off at school and had the dog (an 18 month old boxer), a two year old and a 7 month old in the car (I nanny). I “parked” in the drop-off lane, left the engine running and ran in to the school office, handed in the homework and left the building (3 minutes tops).

    On my way to the car, the on duty “Safety Officer” for the school tells me that he’s going to be lenient and not give me a $350 ticket for 1) leaving my car running and 2) leaving children unattended in a vehicle.

    Yes, I know I’m not “supposed to”. My other option was to add 10 minutes to the drop off by dragging the kids out of the car-seats, (after parking the car at the other end of the lot where the empty spots are because the staff park in the front of the building), dragging them across the parking lot, dropping off the piece of homework, dragging them back into the car and going home.


  14. CS March 26, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    mollie-not to give them fuel, but Ive seen quite a few hybrids and a few VW’s that start with no key in the ignition, and some that run so quietly that you can’t tell when they are running. In my older cars (2001) it still has a ‘real’ engine so my kids can tell when it is on and when it is off. Still no excuse for this retarded law.

  15. justanotherjen March 26, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Oh geeze. I’m so glad things aren’t like that here (in Washington State). Just the other day we went to Safeway which is about a mile from our house. We had been out all day and had to get milk on the way home. It was gorgeous outside (60F and sunny) and as soon as we pulled in the kids were like, “can we just stay in the car.”

    Yeah sure you betcha.

    We left all 5 kids including the 1yo in the car. Me and hubby went in and got the stuff we needed. Took us like 20 minutes and we didn’t rush because the kids were perfectly fine in the car (with the windows down even!). They were reading when we got back.

    Then my 10yo son and 9yo daughter wanted to walk home. I said fine, just be careful crossing the street, wait for the light, etc. I didn’t even have to think about it. They can handle walking the familiar 1 mile home. They had a blast and felt all grown up.

    No one thought anything of it because kids are left in cars all the time and walk around by themselves all the time.

  16. CS March 26, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Paige-I would have Warrant Officer “Wannabe” the same thing I tell every police officer or ‘security official’ that likes to quote personal wants as actual law-citations, please, and Ill see you in court, have a nice day.

    I was in the Army, so I know all about inane security posturing and I can usually tell bullshit when I hear it. Id LOVE to see the city ordinance that your school security guard was quoting, because im doubting that there is one, or he’s mis interpreting it.

  17. Jacki March 26, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Common sense should dictate, not the law. If not, I would rather have anyone observing children in a vehicle on a very hot day, with the windows rolled up, be pro-active and call law enforcement for this rare circumstance, rather than have an overreaching law.

  18. LRH March 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I agree with Sarah. I don’t live in New York, but if I did, yes, I’d be breaking the law. The government has no right telling me how to parent my children. Any law like this, frankly, I fully support people breaking the law on purpose just to make the point. (Obviously, though, don’t leave your kids in the car for 5 hours while you gamble in the casino, that IS wrong.)


  19. Bob Neinast March 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Simple solution: leave the outside the car! Let them sit on the curb. That’ll drive the nannies nuts, if nothing else.

  20. Ben March 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Getting gas for your car must be so much harder now… Drag the kids from the car, fuel the car (while making sure they don’t run off), drag them inside to pay the attendant, strap them back in, leave…

  21. FrDarryl Jordan March 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    So 12 is the new 21.

  22. Nic March 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Wow, I must say some of the things I read I agree with, but Paige, if I saw you leave a 2 year old and a 7 month old in a car unattended, let alone with the car running for goodness sake, I would be calling the police straight away. You can all quibble over what age kids can be left alone at home, walk home alone, talk about maturity and common sense. What you can’t do is argue that a running car is a red flag to a would be thief, that a 2 year old is quite capable of escaping a car seat and putting a car in gear or releasing the brake, or in fact exiting the car. A 2 year old isn’t responsible for your 7 month old or himself, you are. I have witnessed very distressed children left in cars on extremely hot days, and all too often hear of children being run over inadvertently due to parents being distracted or downright negligent. So if this type of law protects just one child from one parent who thinks 10 minutes more to do something as ” inconvenient” as take them with them, then so be it. I’m sure those of us who grew up in the 70’s had parents who thought seatbelt laws were pretty stupid too, but I bet you wouldn’t consider not using one for your child.

  23. gap.runner March 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    On military bases in Europe kids are supposed to be 9 before they’re allowed to be left unattended in a car. When my son was younger than 9, he didn’t want to be dragged into the mail room or Commissary. He preferred to sit in the car and read, so I let him even though I knew that I was being a “lawbreaker.” My son and I had a running joke that if he was “kidnapped by the Gypsies” or abducted by aliens (we watch too many old movies) while I was gone, he was to tell them to leave some money on the front seat. When I’d return he would say, “I’m still here! Nobody stole me today.” My son knew exactly where I was in the unlikely event that someone would try to steal him or the car and knew what to do if that happened.

    How old do kids in New York have to be to walk places or take public transportation on their own? It sounds like 12 is the new 2 over there.

  24. Andy March 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    @Nic are you aware of a difference between a very hot day and a day when it is not very hot?

    What you are saying is, that it should be illegal to leave kids in a car for a short period during winter or spring, because some people left their children in a car during a very hot day.

    It is like saying that wearing jeans should be illegal, because some people are killing other people with grenades.

  25. Nic March 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    Wow, yeah you’re right, we should leave babies in cars alone, because hey, parents should take a very extreme stance on their right to parent any way they see fit ??? I am a free range parent, my kids have been given freedoms many of their other friends don’t have, things other parents are afraid to do, they are mature and level headed in most instances, but I don’t overestimate their maturity, and neither do I jump at shadows. There is a difference between taking acceptable risks, and inviting trouble. Leaving a 2 year old and a 7mth old in a running car, with you gone for minutes is like giving them a loaded gun.

  26. Sarah March 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    I think the point is not that we SHOULD leave babies in the car, but that we should be able to use common sense without being deemed a criminal. Do I leave my kids in the car alone? Yes I sure do! But I do it when it’s safer for them, not when it’s a matter of laziness on my part. I don’t know that I would describe myself as a “free range” parent, just one who refuses to conform to the absurd hovering people do these days. But I would hardly consider my decision to leave them in the car a “very extreme stance on my right to parent any way I see fit”. I turn the engine off and I lock the doors, and I also never let the car out of my sight. That said, I would never judge that women who left the kids while she ran in the school. Is it risky? Maybe, but HOW risky? Is it really fair to say that it was as risky as a loaded gun? I hardly think so. Yes, in theory a thief could have stolen that car or they could have been kidnapped. But what is the likelihood that at that exact moment a thief would be in that exact place and have the time to steal the car… it’s just not likely to happen. I applaud her refusal to operate out of fear. There are threats every single second of every single day. But I think the point of this site is that these threats shouldn’t dictate the way we operate because what kind of existence does that provide? I won’t walk around in fear and put all 4 of my kids in danger because there’s a chance my car might spontaneously explode when I step out of it. At what point do we stop taking risks with our kids? Well, I think that would be where common sense should step in and I resent the fact that the law wants to assume I don’t have any.

  27. Heather G March 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    Ah, Nic. Making a point about someone’s “extreme stance” using a hyperbolic analogy.

    Told my parents in NY about the law. Mom’s reaction was “We already have child endangerment laws.” Guess I’ll be breaking the law when I come visit her. That’s okay. The local cops already think I’m amusing after I hung the “I’m from Florida, it’s my first time driving in snow” sign from the back of the car a few years ago. They love my stories of driving “down south”.

  28. Marie March 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    This woman once created a scene at a parking lot because I left my teen son in the car with his brother. She even called the police who ignored her.

  29. Ruth March 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    I’d like a little more clarification on this…. My understanding is that it is a bill that was passed in the senate last month, but has it been signed into law yet? A quick search (with a toddler distracting me) didn’t get me more info. Please keep us NYers up to date on this one!

  30. K March 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Nic – the point is that we can’t legislate common sense. Or, in the case of parenting my three boys – they have to learn to use common sense because I can’t think of enough things to tell them not to do.

    Rapel down from our deck from the plant hanger? It never occurred to me to tell them not to do that. I am only glad that the plant hanger broke before an actual child was dangling.

  31. LRH March 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Well Nic you’re part of the very scourge of society that parents everywhere should stand up against–a nosy busy-body who can’t mind his or her own business. As others have said, there is a difference between a child left in the car for 30-60 seconds while someone goes inside to pay for gas vs someone leaving a child in the car for 5 hours while they gamble at a casino. The latter is not justification for outlawing the former.

    But besides that, what business is it of yours? Who died & make you God, & what right do you have calling the police on people? While I completely understand the “don’t advocate violence” principle, that said, if someone actually socked you smack in the nose with their fist for you sticking your Pinocchio-sized nose into their business, I would say you got exactly what you deserved in such a situation.


  32. LRH March 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    As hinted before, a big part of the problem are judgmental busy-bodies who can’t mind their own business, & who can’t make the distinction between respecting boundaries in terms of not interfering with other parents vs “looking the other way” at REAL abuse. There is a difference between the two, a BIG difference, but you can’t seem to explain to people that being told to mind your own business does NOT mean that one is advocating that society at large is supposed to look the other way when a child really is being abused or done wrong in some way.

    In the interest of “not looking the other way” or whatever, such people go overboard & take it upon themselves to butt in to more petty-everyday situations where they’re not needed nor wanted, & the thing is this is every bit as wrong as looking the other way at real abuse. Parents who aren’t being monsters should not have to look over their shoulder to see who’s watching & not be comfortable in their parenting role because of people who can’t make the distinction between being a concerned citizen vs being a nosy & interfering one. Again, in my opinion, a parent being subjected to this is just as outrageous as a child being subjected to abuse it can’t escape. Both are equally horribly wrong.

    Also, even if leaving a car running is a temptation for someone to steal it, blaming the parent is hardly the right response. To me, if you will pardon me going “DUH!,” it’s the THIEF who is at fault. Blaming the motorist for leaving the car running & saying they “asked for their car to be stolen” is no different than blaming a woman who was wearing a tight skirt or bikini at the lake-pool as having “asked for it” if someone tries to force themselves on her.

    Besides, I’ve been known to actually PURPOSELY leave a car running when by myself. Typically this was during a quick stop & was because either (a) it was very hot & I didn’t want to have to re-cool the car’s interior all over again or (b) the car had been difficult to start (maybe the battery was low & I had to ask someone to help me jump it) and I didn’t want to risk not being able to re-start the car again. Whatever the reason, I surely don’t think my leaving the car running was akin to giving my consent for someone to steal the car.

    I will tell you what–next time you see money laying loose at a booth in Burger King or McDonald’s, try taking the money & walking off and see if the excuse is accepted “well they left out in broad daylight, they were practically BEGGING me to take it.” Why should a car be any different?


  33. skl1 March 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    I personally would turn my car off and lock it before leaving my kids in it even for a few moments. However, regarding the story mentioned above about the car running with kids inside, remember that we were not there. I gather it was a place where there were plenty of “good people” around including a security person, in broad daylight, in a location deemed safe enough for people to leave their little kids all day. Maybe it was reasonable to leave the car on for that moment. How can I know when I wasn’t there?

    As for tots escaping, it depends on the child and the harness latch. My kids never could unlatch their car seat harnesses, and they sat in them until age 4.5. (Heck, it was hard for me to open them.) So I tend to give the mom the benefit of the doubt that the kids were going to be secure in their seats, not able to get into any mischief in a short time period.

    The point is that common sense does not equal arbitrary rules. It means you size up the situation you are in at that moment and make a caring, reasoned decision.

    As a single mom of two babies in the snow belt, I had times when I literally could not do what needed done because it would involve either leaving the kids alone in the car, or dragging them and my purchases through the elements. (Shopping carts and strollers don’t work well in deep snow/slush.) And at those times, I decided that leaving them in the car was a no-go. They would have gotten scared and hollered, and it was not worth it. I learned to plan around it until my kids were bigger. But I still believe there are times when it does make sense to leave a kid in the car, depending on the circumstances. And it is a very rare mother who does not know how to assess those circumstances.

  34. Jennifer March 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    My then 7-year-old son and I stopped at a fundraiser car wash hosted by a college social group. He opted to stay in the car during the car wash rather than get out and have to talk to the girls who were washing the car. (Girls were, at the time “yucky”) While washing the car, the girls expressed concern about my son sitting in the car. We live in Phoenix, where leaving kids or pets in the car is potentially lethal, and we all know better than to leave kids in the car.

    However, when I told my son about the girls’ concern after the 5-minute car wash, he said “Don’t they know I’m SEVEN?”
    Of course I don’t leave my kids in the car in the Phoenix summer heat. But if they are old enough to 1.Get out of the car on their own and 2. Come find me if they want to get out of the car, it seems reasonable in certain circumstances. Stopping in to a convenience store, for example. My son is now 11, and if he would rather stay in the car and read while I pop in for a moment, even if I was significantly delayed, he’s old enough to get out of the car and come in and find me. He keeps the doors locked, so he’s actually safer from kidnappers than he would be just playing outside (that’s still legal, right?)

    Once he waited in the car while I went in to pick up some library books. There was a long line, and it took a few minutes, and my son came in, because he wanted to make sure that I hadn’t been “adult-napped” He figured I was at greater risk walking around in the library than he was sitting in the car.

    The actual risk is the “forgetting the sleeping infant” which is tragically easy to do, especially for sleep-deprived new parents. No law or fine is going to make people think “Oh shoot, I better bring the baby in, so I don’t get a ticket.” Educating people about the risk, and sharing best practices for prevention is a lot better than assuming that these parents are lazy or stupid and that it could never happen to you.

  35. Uly March 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Nic, is the seven month old going to start driving the car? Or is the two year old going to do it? If it’s the toddler, I suggest you take him or her with you. If it’s the baby, call Mensa, you’ve got a genius on your hands!

    Oh, you’re worried about thieves? Well, if you live in an area where car theft is common, use your best judgment. Nobody is stopping you. I note that in the very few cases I’ve ever heard about where a car was stolen with a child inside (and all those cases made the NATIONAL news, suggesting to me that they’re extremely uncommon) the child was returned safe and unharmed within a few hours.

    Kidnapping and murder are far worse crimes than car theft, and while somebody might want your car, I assure you that very few people want your kid. Sure, you love your kids, but everybody else assumes they’re just brats. If they take your car and there’s a kid inside, it’s not a freebie, it’s a highway to a worse punishment. They’re going to ditch your kid as soon and as safely as possible in hopes of avoiding it.

    Me, I’d be worried about hyperthermia. Not that that’s a great risk either – it kills fewer than 50 children a year, almost always children too young to be able to exit the car themselves. A tragedy, but hardly an epidemic.

    Of course, the danger of children in cars is generally not children being left in cars, it’s children being forgotten in cars. If you leave your kid there intentionally, you’re bound to return. If you forgot you had a kid with you in the first place, you probably won’t.

    Obviously, if you think the child in the car alone is in physical distress and about to die, take whatever means you feel necessary. By all means, if you’re not sure, hang around a few minutes to alleviate your conscience and, if the situation changes for the worse (if, say, the carjackers come, and they only target cars with kids in them but no grown-ups, and they lack weapons to force people to do what they want), do whatever you feel is appropriate. But most times the kid is going to be fine and the appropriate action is to do nothing. Unless the day is EXTREMELY hot out it still takes more than a minute to die of the heat, and if somebody is standing around the car glaring, what sort of idiot would steal it then?

  36. Nerd-faced Girl March 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Leaving a two-year-old and a 7-month-old in a running vehicle is the same as leaving them alone with a loaded gun? What sort of gun? A pistol, a rifle? What’s the trigger pull weight? I only ask because there’s a lot of variables here we have to take into account. A two-year-old would not be able to pull the trigger of a gun with a sensible trigger pull weight. Why not give him or her a knife instead? It would be easier for him to hurt himself. Or…maybe not. I knew a two-year-old who understood knife safety and could chop vegetables without cutting herself. She was also calm and would sit in her carseat without trying to escape, even give her little sister her binky and pat her gently if she could reach and baby was upset. I knew a four-year old who would throw a knife at you if she had one, and who I would never leave in a vehicle alone, even strapped into a car seat, even just long enough to put my groceries in the trunk.

    Could it be possible that a mother might know her children well enough to know what is or isn’t safe for her particular children?

  37. ManitobaMom March 26, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    “As I’ve said before on this topic, the best way to keep your kids safe is to put your purse, briefcase, phone and/or wallet in the back seat next to the car seat. That way, even if somehow you WERE about to forget your sleeping infant (which is the way most of the deaths happen), now you will open the back door and see him/her there. My new motto: Make sense, not laws.”

    @Lenore – probably better to keep those items out of sight in the front, labelled with a little reminder note on top: “don’t forget the baby!”. Wouldn’t want to encourage any car thieves :/

  38. Katherine March 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Uly, 7 months and 2 yrs IS too young to get out of the car, and they ARE at risk of hyperthermia. Furthermore, these aren’t even Paige’s children, and I’d be PISSED if she thought it was too much of an inconvenience to take my kids out because it would make a longer trip…

    I’m with Nic on this.

  39. Kitlope March 26, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Most of the kids that die in parked vehicles are because of parents that either drink in a bar all night or gamble at a casino for hours. All this law does is punish responsible, busy parents. What a sad, pathetic culture of fear nanny state we are creating.

  40. Sarah March 26, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    When I was working as a receptionist, an employee in my building entered the lobby one day and said, “Call the police!” When I asked him why, he said there was a baby left in a car outside the building. I looked out the window, and saw a young child asleep in a car parked in front of the house next door. There was no adult around. The employee abruptly walked off in a huff without another word. If he had stuck around, I would have said, “You have a phone on you, YOU call the police!” How are you being a responsible citizen by throwing that command on someone else (he was by no means my boss, either) and then walking away? Why would you even say something like that? Just to make yourself feel better by telling other people what to do? Other employees came in and, after seeing the child, nervously joked about calling the police. It was like nobody really knew what to do. I was surprised at how uncomfortable people got about it. Even so, everyone ended up walking away. I watched the child from the window, and sure enough, within a few minutes, a man came out of the house next door and took the child inside. He probably just had to put some things away from the car or something. How silly would it have been for me to call the police, when it turned out the child lived in the house in front of which the car was parked?! It seemed like people were very willing to sound off about it, but no one was willing to hang around for a few minutes and make sure things were okay. If you’re going to stick your nose in someone else’s business, at least follow up!

  41. mamataney March 27, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    When my oldest was born I left him, safely asleep in his car-seat in mild weather, so I could run inside for just a quick moment. I was immediately pounced upon by everyone who heard of this, to the point that we always had to pay at the pump when we were getting gas and the kids were in the car. Now that the kids are older (8 & 5) I will often allow them to remain in the car, depending on where we go. This is one I’ve had a hard time getting past because of the society I’m in.
    After reading this post, I did a quick google search for any local laws. Here is what our local town puts out:
    Note, TEN and under is illegal!!! Guess I’m still a lawbreaker too!

  42. Uly March 27, 2012 at 12:17 am #

    Katherine, they’re at risk if they’re forgotten in the car. They’re generally not at risk if they’re left there intentionally. Virtually ALL cases of children dying in cars are of children whose parents forgot they were toting a child in the first place, generally because they were overtired and had suffered a change of schedule.

  43. wingsnroots March 27, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Call me a law breaker then. There are occasions when I leave my kids in the car routinely, and I’ve done it since the youngest was 2. Most are for convenience and while I don’t think they are in danger I’d probably stop if it were a law here. However, there are two situations where I regularly leave a kid in the car where I’d continue, because I maintain that it’s safer and better for my kids. First, I don’t have off street parking, and when they were smaller (and even sometimes still), they would both fall asleep in the car, particularly if we had a street to cross, I’d bring one in at a time, sometimes leaving a sleeping kid up to a block away in a locked car. After trying it both ways, I deemed it safer to carry them individually while sleeping than to wake one or both up and try to lead sleepy, hysterically crying children across a busy street in the dark. Second, busy gas station parking lots, even with the kids holding my hands they scare the crap out of me. Normally, my kids have a choice (at ages 5 and 6) to come with me or wait, if it’s a 5 minute trip, but in that situation, it’s a “NO WAY, you are waiting in the car”, those lots are total chaos and one of my kids is really terrible with watching for cars (another post, it’s something I talk to her about all the time, but she’s just not ready)

  44. JC March 27, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    More nanny laws from a government that continually puts their nose where it doesn’t belong. The sheer arrogance of these lawmakers is astounding. The bottom line is that they think they know what’s better for kids than the parents do. Again, sheer arrogance.

  45. skl1 March 27, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    Katherine, how do you know they are at risk for hypothermia? There was no mention of what kind of day it was. But apparently you know better than this mom whether or not it’s hot/sunny enough for a child to die in a car in 10 minutes.

    You really should go and read about the factual cases where babies have died. The risk really is hyped up. I searched and searched for even one case of a child on the list who was left for less than an hour. Nope. These are babies whose caregivers completely forgot that they were in their care and left them in a bad situation for hours. Just because it is a horrible thought does not mean it will (or can) happen every time (or any time) a child is momentarily left in a car. I challenge you to find one case of a child who died of hyperthermia in a car in 15 minutes or less.

  46. skl1 March 27, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    Sorry, I meant hyperthermia.

  47. Uly March 27, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    Yes, if they’re at risk of hypOthermia there really is something wrong!

    Katherine, again, if you think the child you see in a car is legitimately in danger, none of us will hold you accountable if you take whatever steps you feel are necessary to save its life. That’s really all we can tell you, though. Use your best judgment, and try to make it your BEST judgment instead of your SNAP judgment.

  48. mollie March 27, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    I had heard a while back that leaving kids in cars was starting to be legislated because of the risk of the kids putting the car into gear and getting injured. I was confused about this because I had been a kid left in a car so many times back in the 70s, keys in the ignition so we could listen to the radio, and we never started the car up or put it into gear. We didn’t wiggle the gear shift and get it into neutral and start rolling. But perhaps there were cases of this. I haven’t seen the stats.

    Hearing in this thread, though, that the main issue is hyperthermia is interesting for me. NY state is not a year-round hyperthermia risk region. What exactly is so risky about leaving your kids in the car while you return something at the department store or pay for the gas or pick up the dry cleaning or milk?

    Is it carjacking and kidnapping? Isn’t abduction of children in cars just as rare, or more so, than kids being snatched off the street as pedestrians? Where do we stop attempting to legislate away this enormously unlikely harm scenario?

    Is it the scenario where the kids put the car into gear and come to harm through collision? Again, how many times in the history of post-1980 manufactured cars has this happened? Is it worth “protecting” kids against this vanishingly small possibility of harm when many parents know by instinct that crossing the parking lot is more dangerous than anything inside the car?

    As for hyperthermia, is there any documented case, anywhere, of a child over the age of, say, three or four who died because it got too hot in the car? Sure, it’s too hot to leave your pets in the car, but your pets don’t have opposable thumbs. A 7-year-old who died in the car of hyperthermia, no matter how long he was left there? These legislators are actually making it illegal for a sentient, awake child reading a book or pressing buttons on a game console to remain in a car in any weather circumstance?

    I’m still not clear about what danger it is that they’re trying to mitigate with this law.

  49. Ann In L.A. March 27, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    I wonder if the number of kids who are killed by cars while walking through parking lots is greater than the number who die because they’re left in a car.

  50. Christina March 27, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    @C.S. – I have a Prius and if I stop the car, lock the doors, and leave the immediate vicinity with my key, my boys can’t start the car.

  51. Ann In L.A. March 27, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    Actually, there are numbers out there…Number of kids killed a “front-over” accident: 358 from 2006-2010. “Back-overs” are 448, for a total of 806 in 5 years, or 161 per year. Source: http://ktar.com/6/1519022/Parking-lot-deaths-for-children-on-the-rise and http://www.kidsandcars.org/types-of-dangers.html

    64% of non-traffic related car-deaths of kids are from getting run over. While 16% were from heat stroke.

    So, it looks like kids are safer in the car, than walking around it.

  52. Lollipoplover March 27, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    So, Ann in L.A., those statistics you use would suggest that the NY Senate, by mandating parents remove their kids every time from the car, would actually be endangering the children instead of protecting them.

  53. Tsu Dho Nimh March 27, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    I “parked” in the drop-off lane, left the engine running and ran in to the school office, handed in the homework and left the building (3 minutes tops).

    I’d be more annoyed at the engine left running, because a Boxer or a 2-year old child (there is little difference in energy level) could knock the car out of park and into “R” and start moving.

    Living as I do in a really HOT climate, if I see kids in a parked car on a warm day, I will call 9-1-1 if they are active and bust out a window to haul them out and into a cooler place if they are not.

  54. Library Diva March 27, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    “What if the state needs to make money and penalizing my parenting decisions is an easy way to grab it?”

    That’s what the real issue is. As a lifelong NYer, this is what this state is all about, more and more each year, as the population continues to dwindle and the tax base continues to erode. Remember at the height of the recession, how they wanted to force everyone to buy those hideous “new” license plates for $100 a pop and public outcry forced them to abandon the scheme?

    Like so many other things on this blog, it’s about money, not child safety. Last year, the craziest, worst-case scenario happened in the next town over. A man had his children (ages 3 and 5 I believe) in the car with him, and needed to drop something off at his cousin’s house. He left the kids in the car with either the car running or the keys in the ignition. During the five minutes he was inside this home in a safe residential area, someone stole the car. The thief, as it turned out, was a young guy, who wanted to steal a car, not children, and got caught shortly after he abandoned the car in a public place.

    My uncle was the lead police officer on the case. He emphasized repeatedly in every statement to the press that the parent didn’t do anything wrong, and certainly nothing that every parent hasn’t done at least once. Sadly, now, he’d be forced to arrest the guy.

  55. Beth March 27, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    Did anyone actually READ Paige’s post before over-reacting? She left them for 3 minutes. Three “tops”, in her words. And they didn’t die.

  56. Marlene March 27, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    As for Paige’s example, they didn’t die, but in all honesty if I paid someone to look after my 2 year old and 7 month old, I would be very upset if she left them alone in a running car. My neighbor left her 2 year old and 1 year old in a running car for maybe 5 minutes while she ran into a convenience store to pay. Her 2 year old was a VERY obedient, gentle natured child. However, she’s two – enough said. Being two, she chose that moment to get out of her car seat and play with the stuff up front. She got the car in gear and it rolled out into the street. Luckily there were no cars coming at that moment and another person nearby was able to run out into the street and stop the car. Did she ever leave her babies alone in a running car again? Nope. She learned the lesson I would hope we all know by instinct – or if not we will now know. You don’t leave young children alone in a running car. Period. Now if she had turned the car off and locked the door, preventing them from being able to leave the car unpredictably, then I see nothing wrong with running in for 3-5 minutes.

  57. Donna March 27, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    I think some are stuck in the 1980’s with this fear of a car getting knocked out of park and rolling. Automatic transmission cars (the vast majority of cars on the road today) have had a locking mechanism on the gear shift so that it can’t be accidentally engaged from park for many years now. I tried to knock my 2005 Mazda and my 2007 Civic out of park just to see if it was possible. It’s not. You have to push a button while moving the gear shift to get it out of park. It may be possible that a toddler could figure out how to push the button and move the shift but it’s not possible to accidentally knock the car out of park.

    This may be a reasonable fear in manual transmission cars and very old cars. But it is one of those things that we can decide the risk for ourselves based on our own circumstances. We can consider that we have a late model automatic transmission vehicle and a toddler that has no idea how to move the gear shift and decide that it is safe – as I’ve done probably 1000 times over the course of my daughter’s 6 years in my own driveway while I ran back into the house to get something I’d forgotten without a single incident.

    But before we go crazy, this law DOES NOT prevent all kids under 8 from being left alone in cars. It only prevents them from being left alone in unsafe conditions – something that was already illegal under child endangerment laws so I’m not sure what this adds other than a LESSER way to address the issue through an infraction and fine.

  58. Uly March 27, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Well, Marlene, we don’t know what this other woman thinks of it. Maybe she routinely leaves her own kids in the car, and so it’s reasonable for her sitter to do so. Maybe they’ve discussed it.

    I agree, when watching somebody else’s kids you should follow the stricter safety rules (so if they say no running with candy, you say it. if you say no climbing on the slide, you still say it), but if they both agree on this one area….

  59. Jespren March 27, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    The law seems a bit confusing, the part quoted just talks about leaving kids in a situation that posses a ‘significant threat’. It doesn’t say anything about cars. How could a situation with a vanishingly insignificant risk of anything bad happening possibly be considered a ‘significant threat’? I know people are stupid, but if such a ticket got issued it seems like a run to the court house with some statistics would clear up the ‘significant threat’ lie.

    About the little kids left in a running car everyone is upset about. They are a whole lot more likely to have been put in danger because the car was parked IN A NO PARKING zone than because the car was left on. A fire, threat, or other that requires emergency vechiles to access that area, or a sleepy bus driver or other parent that foolishly assumes the car is moving and runs into the back of it is a far more likely outcome than someone stealing even a running car. I see nothing weird nor dangerious about leaving kids that age briefly in a car (personally I would lock it, might leave it running given circumstances if I had an extra key, but realistically it’s just not a situation likely to cause a problem), but parking in a no parking zone really ticks me off.

    If it says ‘no parking’, it does in fact apply to *you*, not just to ‘someone else’.

  60. M March 27, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Hmmm, how many of us, as children, may have been sent to sit ‘in the car’ for acting up while eating out, or shopping etc with our parents?mi know I was, and managed to survive….

  61. skl1 March 27, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    This is unrelated, but struck me as along the lines of some of our pet peeves. Today I saw an article by some doctor arguing that it is not healthy to allow kids to use the potty until they are older preschoolers. Now, I’ve heard the argument that you wait until the child is ready bla bla bla, but this goes further and recommends that we don’t even encourage or allow a child to hold his pee / poo because that causes medical problems. The healthiest option is for a child to soil himself the instant he first feels the urge to go.

    OK, so I could go on for a while regarding why that is full of crap (no pun intended), but seriously – fear-mongering against allowing tots to graduate to underwear even when they can and want to? To me that sounds like abuse, but at the very least that is holding many kids back from healthy independence.

  62. Nic March 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Seems some people can’t allow others to express their opinions if they don’t agree with them, without resorting to name calling, and making rash generalisations and advocating violence.

  63. Marlene March 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    “I think some are stuck in the 1980′s with this fear of a car getting knocked out of park and rolling. Automatic transmission cars (the vast majority of cars on the road today) have had a locking mechanism on the gear shift so that it can’t be accidentally engaged from park for many years now.”

    My neighbor own an automatic transmission 2006 car and her toddler figured it out. My own toddler (age 2 1/2) was sitting on his Daddy’s lap in the front seat while I was picking up a few groceries. The car was running, as it was hot outside, and he pulled the gear shift out of the “locked” position, much to my husband’s surprise, LOL. We owned a 2001 model at the the time and there was no button, but you did have to pull forward and then down. I think most toddlers are smart enough these days to easily figure it out, though. Let’s just hope people don’t underestimate their child’s intelligence. :/

  64. skl1 March 27, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    For that matter, adventurous tots can get into the car themselves and start it rolling. Usually they do this while mom is washing dishes or the like. Ban dishwashing!

  65. David March 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    skl1, I’m all for free ranging, but at the appropriate age. If you have an adventurous tot (1-3 year old), let’s hope you keep an eye on them and install out of reach locks and such so that they do not have “free range” to the family car, while you are doing dishes or anything else.

  66. skl1 March 27, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Well David, if you have ever had a tot, you will know that they surprise you at times.

    It was my elder brother who did the car thing at age 3. It’s not “that” unusual. It hasn’t happened to me, probably by the grace of God. (Or maybe because I don’t wash dishes often enough.)

  67. Uly March 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    David, this is all very easy to say in hindsight. I imagine that few kids drive off in the car more than ONCE.

  68. antsy March 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I dream about a nice community somewhere where people “never, ever, not even for a second”, think about calling the police on fellow parents just for making a parenting decision they don’t agree with.

    If only there really were official Free Range Schools, where we could make those quick stops at the school office without worrying that someone might berate us or tattle on us because kids are sitting comfortably in the car.

    Our school is pretty much like that. We have a friendly older (70’s) guy with a sense of humor who manages the parking lot at afternoon pick up time. One day I saw a Mom (who I know has six kids) get out of her car and head toward the school, leaving her month old baby behind. The elderly guy joked with her, “You’re leaving New Baby in there all by himself?!” The mother says, “Well, why not? I know he’s not going to walk away!” The guy chuckled and agreed. A few minutes later, she came back, and the guy called out to her. “He’s still there! He didn’t go anywhere!” I felt happiness at that moment and thankfulness that we have a school community like that – as opposed to one with an officious security guard like poor Paige’s!

  69. David March 28, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    I have 9 kids, so I’m definitely familiar with tots. 😉 I also know that a very important concept is to learn from other’s mistakes. Before my first child learned to walk I was observant enough to realize that while you certainly can’t prevent every accident, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent some of the greatest risks. For example, a 1 or 2 year old wandering out the front door or into the garage unsupervised can be deadly. So it took me less than an hour to install childproof locks at the very top of our door that we can lock if we know we’re going to be in the shower or something. When doing dishes, my wife always sat our toddlers on the counter top so they could help mommy. This way they learned to enjoy work by mommy’s side and it let her keep an eye on them so they weren’t coloring on the walls – certainly not hazardous, but still a pain, LOL. 🙂 Of course our tots got into mischief. But looking back I’d say we did a decent job of protecting them and teaching them what was safe and not safe and keeping an eye on them while they were little. Then when they got a bit older we knew we could trust them to come and go and learn more self sufficiency.

  70. Heather G March 28, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    David, my 2.5 year old has already climbed the door frame and unlocked the “child-proof” locks. Once we stopped using those locks he stopped being interested in unlocking them. In our case a chime on the door works. Clearly what works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another.

  71. David March 28, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Yeah, I agree normal locks could be figured out. Luckily my wife was pretty diligent about teaching our kids obedience and limits (and she kept them in sight when they were toddlers) so we never had any problems with any of them trying to climb the door frame (!) to get to the lock, LOL. But some kids are just little monkeys, I guess. Ours were actually a type you had to type a code into to unlock, so they still would have been OK even if they had climbed. (We got them for free from a friend who’s kids had outgrown them, I have no idea where he got them from, but they definitely gave us a peace of mind.) We didn’t have to use them very often, because, like I said, we were pretty diligent at keeping an eye and my wife actually had a little play area set up in the corner of our bathroom so if she were home alone with 1 or 2 year old they would play quietly there while she showered. If they would try to leave she would get out and bring them back every time. She did this from the time they started crawling so they learned early. 😉

  72. bingabinga March 28, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    I agree that the law is nonsense. However, I suspect the majority of people leave their child in the car because it is just plain more convenient and they are lazy. Unless there are unique circumstances in which it is actually safer to leave them in the car, what other good reason could there be to leave them alone in the car?

  73. Margaret March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    I live in CA and find it rediculous that it is illegal for me to leave my 11 and 6 yr old in the car (safe and locked) while I run in to get the cleaners, but if I let them go in alone (where “strangers” are lurking) that is perfectly okay.

  74. Nic March 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    bingabinga, I totally agree with you on that. Freeranging is one thing, but responsibility and duty of care is another, especially when you consider the age and maturity of the child. When someone says they do it because it saves time, it really doesn’t sound like a necessity, just convenient.

  75. mollie March 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Wow, what’s wrong with a little convenience, folks? Especially when there are such vanishingly small risks involved (risks no higher than those incurred when doing the “inconvenient” version… dragging kids out of the car and across the parking lot).

    Why call someone “lazy” just because they enjoy some ease, flow, harmony, and yes, perhaps even safety? Don’t we all love those things? When the solution is working for the parent and the kids, why judge it from the outside?

    When you call a parent “lazy,” are you longing for a sense of responsibility? Can you stretch your understanding of responsibility to include a parent that makes a mindful choice to meet their own and their kids’ present needs?

    Is “good parenting” necessarily without ease? I hope not!

  76. LRH March 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    mollie Exactly. What is wrong with a little convenience? Lenore herself has said (something along these lines) that anymore these days it’s almost as if you are compelled to MAKE parenting be as hard & as stressful as it can be, unnecessarily, because it’s as if we’re competing against each other and “whoever has the hardest job as a parent wins.”

    I don’t participate in that silliness. I say, whoever has their stuff together and manages to parent without looking frazzled & homeless, THEY “win.” And I say “win” in quotes because, really, since when is parenting supposed to be about competing & one-upping the other, and shaming those who don’t meet your nit-picky standards?

    You parent your way, I will parent my way. I respect your right to parent as you please & I mind my own business only someone ASKS me to tell me what I think of their parenting style. I expect the same courtesy in return. How I parent my child isn’t any outsider’s business. Period.


  77. LRH March 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Ugh, typos.

    I meant to say–I mind my own business and only if someone ASKS me tot ell me what I think of their parenting style will I do so.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t get topical and speak in generalities about certain things & give my opinions, especially online. However, I don’t make it a practice of telling my friends or strangers I know or see in real life what I think of how they parent their kids, so long as it doesn’t affect me. I may think it ridiculous when I see these parents yell “no running!” to their kids at the park, & I may comment here about how silly I think that is, however I’m not going to poke my nose into that parent’s business at the park & tell them to their face “I think you ought to let your kids run, I mean, gee, they’re at the park.” They have the right to parent how they feel & I should respect that.

    So, yes, when I parent a certain way for the sake of convenience, unless I’m doing something extreme like leaving them alone in a car for 8 hours while I gamble at a casino, that is no one’s business.


  78. Jim Collins March 29, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    My car requires that you have to depress the brake pedal and push a button on the gear shift to put the car in gear. I want to meet the 2 year old who can pull that off.

  79. skl1 March 29, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    So is it a bit of a sin now to desire a little convenience when parenting multiple young children? Excuuuuuuuse me!

  80. antsy March 29, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    I dare say, especially in situations involving multiple young children, the more convenient option is usually the safer option – even more so if the caretaker has hands full of something else (milk jugs, cleaning, parcels to mail).

  81. Meg March 29, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    I will be breaking the law.

  82. bingabinga March 29, 2012 at 8:13 am #


    Maybe I shouldn’t use the word ‘lazy” but technically, I didn’t call anyone lazy and I even allowed for the caveat that it might be safer to keep the child in the car in some circumstances. I said that I suspect that many people do this out of laziness.

    I am very lazy. I am not perfect by any stretch. And I LOATHE taking my kids on multiple errands with all the in and outs of the car seat. But, to me, it is worth it to have them with me. If a minimal effort results in eliminating a minimal risk than I feel like I should make that effort. Especially in a case where there is no extra reward to the child for staying in the car. It’s not like the child learns something new, or develops some independence by being in the car. They just sit there.

    To the people that say “you parent your way and I will parent mine”. If you believe that, then why the are you taking time to discuss parenting in a forum like this? You can’t have it both ways. Parenting is a worthy and important vocation. It is worth actually disagreeing over and having a conversation about it!

  83. Uly March 29, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    “If a minimal effort results in eliminating a minimal risk than I feel like I should make that effort.”

    And that’s not an unreasonable way to live your life. However, the question is “is the effort really minimal?” and “is the risk really more minimal in the car instead of outside of it?”

    Thinking individuals can come to different answers to those questions.

  84. skl1 March 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    bingabinga, do you live where the weather sucks half of the year? Because if you do, then you should recognize that leaving a kid in the car can be seen as a benefit to her. You know, she doesn’t have to become cold and wet (or hot and sweaty) by tagging along on mom’s boring errand. Also, can’t it be possible that a kid would rather sit and read a book than wait in the checkout line? And not waking a sleeping child is generally a positive thing.

    Especially if we follow all the child safety seat guidelines – keep our kids in five-point harnesses rear-facing until they graduate KG, make them remove their coat and zip them into a “carseat pocho” every time they re-enter the car, bolt down all their gear lest it become a “projectile,” etc. When my kids were babies, each stop meant that I had to set up the double stroller (regardless of weather) since my kids were late walkers; then in the store, I could not use a cart and push the stroller at the same time, so I had to constantly strategize how to get things through the checkout and back to my car. Not to mention the stage when my kids wanted to grab everything on the shelves, or when they finally could walk everywhere but I needed to hold both of their hands plus all of my merchandise etc. Inconvenient? Why, yes! Like I said before, I nearly always brought them with me or just canceled my plans, because the logistics weren’t right for leaving them in the car; but I would not fault someone for choosing to do so in a safe and logical situation. Parenthood isn’t supposed to be a continuous punishment.

  85. Sarah March 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Excellent, I am looking forward to racking up my misdemeanor charges. Because about 90% of the time when we get home from somewhere, my kid can’t be bothered to stop reading in the backseat and stays in the car until it occurs to her that we’ve left her there. Maybe I’ll manage not to get caught in the six months remaining before she turns 8?

  86. bingabinga April 1, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    Dear skl1,

    I think we are arguing about minor details. I agree this should not be a law, I agree that there are circumstances in which it is safer to leave the child in the car, I agree that people will have different estimations of what “safer” means in a given context.

    I think I probably have more stringent criteria than you when it comes to a situation where I would leave my kid in the car.

  87. AngeinAus April 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    I agree with Nic and Bingabinga – this is not about being free-range, it is about convenience for the parents. Maybe that’s ok when your children are older, but for babies and toddlers, parents need to keep their eyes on them (think swimming pools and bathtubs). As I said on another post, I don’t understand how babies can be free range.

  88. Dean April 2, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    Your kids are not your property. It takes a village, and you apparently are the villige idiot. Who else would leave a small child unattended in a car?

  89. Beth April 2, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    And why is it so awful for parents to be, you know, convenienced?

  90. antsy April 2, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    If you leave your small child unattended sleeping in his crib all night long, you can leave him for a few minutes sleeping in his carseat.

  91. AngeinAus April 2, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    I do not believe that convenience for parents is awful. Of course it isn’t, in some situations, however, convenience is not the top priority.

  92. Heather G April 2, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    AngeinAus, in the conditions you describe in the other post it certainly is more dangerous to leave the children in the car. But not everyone has to deal with those conditions. Living in Florida I do not leave my kids in the car in August as it heats up quite quickly. January is another matter. So are other regions. Parents in the northern US and Canada find that it is worse for the children to drag them out of the car in sub-zero temperatures than to leave them sheltered from the elements. Then we have to contend with situations where taking the kids out, walking them across a parking lot, and loading them back in would actually create *more* danger than leaving them buckled in the car.

    What it all comes down to is that every parent/child/situation is different. As parents we are best qualified to weigh the risks vs benefits of choices involving our own children. Unfortunately the unexpected will sometimes occur, like a child who didn’t know how to get out of their seat yesterday suddenly figuring it out today. However those occurrences should NOT be criminalized. They are not neglect, endangerment, thoughtless or selfishness.

  93. AngeinAus April 2, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Heather G – yes I understand that the conditions in the US may be quite different to those in Australia, certainly we never have to cope with sub-zero temperatures. I also agree that it should not be a criminal issue. My personal opinion remains, however, that it is preferable for babies and toddlers not to be left alone in a car.

    My children are teenagers and this issue is less relevant for our family now. However, I do remember how difficult it can be to juggle drop-offs, naps, and all those errands that need to be done. Regardless, I believe that it is important to be observant when you have babies and toddlers, no matter how free range you intend to be with them when they are older. And although it would be wonderful if all parents were always able to make the best decisions involving their children, unfortunately this is not always the case. Examples of this occur too frequently, with a several young children here having been run over by their own parents in their driveways over the past year.

    Although I do not agree entirely, I do appreciate your thoughtful response.

  94. Nic April 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi AngeinAus, I think your comments are pretty close to my own thinking, must be our downunder mentality. I keep hearing the word convenience, but kids aren’t convenient. Trips with kids can be messy, they can take more planning, and time, and sometimes they don’t go to plan at all. And if it’s really necessary to leave the car, then you take the baby and the toddler and you do what needs to be done. I keep reading that the village will look after people’s kids, but ultimately they are our responsibility as parents, even more so when they are too young to look after themselves. And that doesn’t make us helicopter parents, or any less free-range. Some of the comments I am reading make me think that some of you think it’s all or nothing.

  95. Buffy April 3, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    Sorry, but I don’t consider it exercise, educational, or fun, or togetherness, to haul my kids out of the car when I have to run back into the house for something I forgot, or stop at the post office for a book of stamps, or pick up my dry cleaning. If they are safely in the car, I guess I’ll be “lazy” or “irresponsible” and leave them there for a 2 minute trip.

  96. antsy April 3, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Buffy, at least you’re not “loony” – which is what I’d consider a person who takes the kids out of the car everytime they have to run into the house for something!

  97. AlexONT April 22, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Many speak of the fear that a child will knock the car out of park. I’m very surprised that nobody spoke of a most simple solution: Use your parking brake!!!

    I don’t know of any young kids who could find and pull on the lever under the dash. Even more so for the hand brake that requires significant strength to pull up, push button, and then release. Now onto engaging the transmission.

  98. Jessica April 25, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    I once left my kids in the car while I picked up dinner. It was raining and I called my food order and ask her to wave to me when the food was ready. I did not want to take the boys out while it was raining and try to juggle kids and food. When the food was ready she waved to me and I picked up my food. I paid for my food and then thanked her and then left. I don’t think the boys noticed that I left them in the car, they were busy playing with their toys.

  99. Luke July 5, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    Frankly, I don’t get why so many people are making a big deal about the law. I am sitting in a car right now because we have our dog in the car and my son. My wife wanted me to go with her into the Walmart and leave my 11 year old and his dog in the car while we went in. She wanted to leave the car running so the AC was on. We would be in the store for more than a few minutes as we had several things to get. I said no. Frankly, I don’t know when I will feel comfortable leaving my son alone in a car. Maybe when he is 16.

  100. brooke August 11, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    Why is it safer to leave a child in a car as opposed to taking the child out of the car with you? Some of you are citing reasons why they wouldn’t take the child out of the car and stating it’s “Safer”. Why? How?

    I get a bad feeling about leaving my daughter in the car alone. Even just to “run” into the store to pay for gas. I get a super bad feeling, so I don’t do it. I’m surprised many parents don’t get this kind of bad feeling about it.

    My daughter is anything but “convenient” though. I don’t mind all the inconveniences that arise from raising her. One day she won’t need me anymore and when that day comes I can run into stores without her, but until then she needs me to make sure she is safe.

    Parenting shouldn’t be a right. I see too many children being abused and placed back with their abuser because their family. I think leaving your child in a car sounds like a form of neglect, especially when a parent is doing it for convenience after weighing the possibilities of abduction, car rolling away, hyperventilation, death, etc.

    Ski1: So the worst thing that can happen to you would be your child getting wet if you take them out of the car and the worst thing that could happen if you leave them there are your children being abducted, raped, and then beaten to death.


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