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Do You Leave Your Kids Alone in the Car?


I live in the city and don’t drive, so I’ve never left my kids alone in the car. But growing up, I remember frequently being left in the backseat while my parents popped into the dry cleaners, or ran into the store to grab milk.

Now the New York State senate has passed a bill outlawing kids younger than age 8 from being left unaccompanied in the car. The bill adds, rather murkily, that kids cannot be left alone “under conditions which would knowingly or recklessly present a significant risk to the health or safety of the child.”
Plus: Should You Rent a Car Seat While Traveling?

We all agree that leaving kids in the car for a long time, especially in warm weather, is dangerous. But hot car deaths, which occur when a child dies because the car they are trapped in overheats, are rarely intentional, so this law would do little to prevent them. 

But is leaving your kids alone for just a minute or two in a car truly risky—and should the government be making that call for parents? Free-Range Kids author and blogger Lenore Skenarzy writes:

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?
Plus: Helicopter Parent Rehab

Do you leave your kids alone in the car? Under what circumstances is it okay?