Is it Ever OK to Leave Your Child in a Car Alone?

July 6, 2014  |  

By now most have heard the horrific story of the Georgia father who intentionally left his son to die in an excruciatingly hot car. He’s now charged with his murder. And you may have also heard of the Connecticut mom who days later left her son in the car while she went grocery shopping and was subsequently arrested. It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again and each time, the story tends to have a similar ending—mommy or daddy gets arrested.

So is it ever ok to leave your child in a car alone? The answer is no.

You would think such ending would make parents think twice before leaving their children unattended in a car—and maybe they do—but twice should be enough to keep them from acting upon such an impulse.

Kids get in the way sometimes. I get it. And occasionally you need to run inside the store for literally five minutes and don’t feel like unbuckling and coaxing a contrary toddler to get out of his or her car seat and be a good boy or girl while inside. I get that too. But as parents we have the unofficial responsibility of protecting our children from hurt, harm or danger and as a result, we’re sometimes inconvenienced. That’s just a fact of parenthood. Deal with it.

And yes, that’s really what it boils down to.

More than one dozen states have very specific laws against leaving your child unattended in a car. And while penalties vary, these states deem the recurring, careless act one serious enough to face criminal charges. And I have to agree.

At this point, we’ve all heard one too many stories of a child dying while in the car alone, or accidentally hitting running car out of gear and causing an accident while in a vehicle unattended. These situations are totally avoidable, and have an easy solution, take your kid inside with you.

Many states have decided that 12 is the age at which children are old enough to exit a vehicle once it becomes too hot or cold and are able to properly gauge safety measures to take should a mistake or accident of some sort take place.

And as varying excuses come back from the side of the guilty parent faced with abuse or neglect charges after leaving their child. Earlier this year, a single, homeless mom’s story went viral after she was arrested for leaving her children in her vehicle unattended so she could go interview for a job. And while on many levels parents are able to empathize with situations such as the aforementioned moms’, we have to put the safety of our kids first.

According to, approximately 38 unattended children die annually in cars from heat. More than half the time, caregivers are distracted and forget there is a child in the car. Thirty percent of the time children climb into cars left unlocked or find the keys to gain car access and 17 percent are intentionally left in cars. Kids succumb to heat because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Moms and dads must take the easy steps necessary to eliminate this problem—it’s never ok to risk your child’s safety and well-being in such a way.

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