This morning a car was stolen from a Longmont, Colo. gas station with 4-year-old Allen Chavarria-Rodriquez inside. An Amber Alert was issued and thankfully the boy was safely recovered later as the suspect ditched the car and jacked two others until he was apprehended in Parker. This event prompts the question: Is it ever safe to leave kids in the car?
A recent Mothering article written by Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, titled Okay to Leave Kids in the Car While Popping into a Store? made me think about my own practices when it comes to running into the store days before the carjacking/kidnapping occured so close to home.
According to Mothering, it is against the law in 19 states to leave a child unattended in a car.
The laws differ in their particulars, but basically they state that a child under age 6, 7 or, in Utah, 9, cannot be left alone in the car for more than five or 10 minutes. In Nebraska, having your 6-year-old wait in the car is an offense in the same category as allowing the child to be “deprived of necessary food” or “sexually exploited.” In Louisiana, a second kid-in-car infraction carries a sentence of not less than one year in prison, “with or without hard labor.”
These laws seem extreme and the examples Skenazy provides of them being carried out are a little maddening. Moms separated from their children and hauled to the police station? The intention behind the laws is in the spirit of protecting the children, of course, but there is a big difference between leaving a child in a car in 90 degree heat and running into a store where you can see them to grab a gallon of milk.
Martha Rodriguez, the mother of the boy in the Longmont carjacking, will not face charges for leaving her child in a running vehicle said Longmont Police Department spokesperson Jeffrey Satur, “as law enforcement did not feel she had been negligent in regards to her child.
“’It is not like she left her kid in the car for hours on end,’ Satur said. ‘She just parked outside the business and walked in and the guy jumped in the car. So, we’re talking maybe 15 or 20 feet.’”
I have been known to leave my kids (7 and 9) in the car on occasion while I run into a store to grab a few things. I always lock the car and take my keys with me. I often leave my phone with the kids as well. I feel OK doing this or I wouldn’t do it. Would I leave my sleeping 6-month-old in the car while I ran into the store? Probably not. That just doesn’t feel OK to me.
I don’t like to live my life in fear of the what-ifs. Statistically speaking, the risk is still very small that a child will be abducted by a stranger. You can read more about crime statistics on the Free Range Kids page.
I think common sense is key.
Always lock your car doors. Always take your keys with you. If you don’t feel safe doing it, DON’T.
What do you think? Is it ever OK to leave kids in the car unattended? Do you do it?
- An old post of mine “The 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make” – Seriously? Seriously?!!
- A response to that post called “Parenting Mistakes”: An International Comparison by Annie at PhD in Parenting
- NJ Court Takes Child Neglect to Extremes, The Latest Suburban Crime Wave, and In Regulation We Trust also by Lenore Skenazy
Photo used with permission.
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