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Leaving an Unattended Child in a Vehicle

Heatstroke - photo copyright: NTHSA

Leaving an Unattended Child in a Car

Soon the summer heat kicks in again. Do you think it is safe to leave your child in the car while you just run into a store for a few minutes? Think they are safe in a locked car?

Think again. Consequences of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle can be deadly. In fact, heat stroke tragedies can happen to anyone, even loving, caring, attentive parents.

It Doesn’t Take Long

It does not take long for a small child to be overcome by the heat. Because of their small body mass and size, they heat up faster. And the heat is always more intense inside a car than outside. The difference can be as much as 30 degrees. Even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the temperature to rise well above 110 degrees Fahrenheit inside your car. The inside temperature can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.

Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. With respiratory systems that are still developing, children are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion.

More than 30 children die each year after being left or trapped in a hot car. Even if you aren’t a parent, you should learn the facts about child heatstroke.

Kids in Hot Cars - Copyright:

Is It Legal to Leave a Child Unattended in a Car?

The simple answer is: no!

Texas is just one state that has criminalized the act of knowingly or intentionally leaving your child in a vehicle. If you leave a child age seven or under alone in a vehicle for five minutes or more, you can face a Class C misdemeanor. If the child is injured, the charge could become a felony. Penalties include up to two years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000. If you leave your child in the vehicle for more than five minutes in Texas it must be supervised by another person 14 years of age or older. (Read more.)

In California, children under age 6 may not be left alone in a motor vehicle. The child must be accompanied by someone age 12 or older. If the child is harmed in any way, the parent or guardian will face criminal charges. This question is common on the California written knowledge test. Make sure you read the information about leaving children unattended in a vehicle.

Other States with Laws against Leaving Children Unattended

Other states that have criminalized leaving children unattended in a vehicle include Washington (16 years), Pennsylvania (6 years), Nebraska (6 years), Missouri (10 years), Michigan (6 years), Maryland (8 years), Louisiana (6 years), Kentucky (8 years), Illinois (6 years), Hawaii (9 years), Florida (6 years), and Connecticut (12 years)

Remember, even if a state does not have a specific law prohibiting you from leaving children unattended, state and local prosecutors have the discretion to criminally charge you under existing child endangerment laws.

Children should never be left alone in a vehicle. Always lock your car and make sure nobody else have access to keys or remote entry devices.

Photo “heat stroke” by NTHSA, illustration “Where’s Baby” by

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2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Summer Heat - Know the Facts about Child Heatstroke |
  2. Special California Laws and Rules on the DMV Test |

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