No, you can’t leave your child alone in your car.

In the last two and a half weeks, several children in Connecticut under the age of twelve have been left alone in cars on hot days. Some of these children have been removed from these situations before suffering the serious, and deadly, effects of heat stroke. Other children, unfortunately, were not found in time and passed away.

There were numerous times when my mother would let me stay in the car while she was buying groceries. I was an atypical kid, so I had the common sense to get out of a car if it were too hot (and our car didn’t have child proof locks). I firmly believe in the intelligence of young children and their ability to make choices, and take appropriate actions. I also firmly believe in the science of the human brain. Children on average begin developing common sense at age ten. That does not mean the instant they turn ten years old, they magically acquire the common sense of an adult. No matter what we tell our children to do, no matter how much we teach our children, we have to operate under the belief that they do not know better, because they don’t. They are not the adults here, we are. And just because it was okay for me as an individual, that does not mean it is okay for the entire population of children throughout the United States, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

I recently had a heated debate with a group of people over this issue. Many of the people I was talking to believed children as young as eight years old can be left alone in cars. That if the car gets too hot, they can just get out of the car. If there are child proof locks, then they can climb into the front seat and exit the car that way. This suggests that it’s okay for people to take such a risk as leaving their child in a car alone. This also suggests that if a child didn’t try to get out of the car, they deserved to suffer heat stroke. It’s not that different from suggesting that a woman deserves to be raped if she wears a short skirt. Maybe some of these people thought if heat stroke starts to set in, these children’s bodies have ways of shutting that whole thing down.

There are other reasons why children should not be left alone in cars, but I’ll get to that later. First, I want to share a video report from USA Today on an incident of two small children being left alone in a hot car: Shoppers smash windows to rescue kids in hot car.

It can be argued that there were other ways to handle the situation. Such as looking for the parent and/or guardian rather than breaking into the car. I read a very long article a while back (I couldn’t find a source link) in which a mother left her son in a car alone while she ran into a store to get a couple of things. A man who was in the parking lot, saw her leave her son, called the police and video taped her son in the car. If it were me, I would have said something to her directly instead. If she was unwillingly to take her son with her, then I would call the police. Letting her make that mistake, led to a massive custody battle in which she almost lost her child. But if I see a child in a car gasping for air, I’m telling the nearest person to call 911, and I’m breaking a window. The only thing I think should have been done differently in that video, is regardless of how much the mother begged, they should have called the police anyways. She lost her second chance when she almost killed her children.

Another argument I’ve heard is that not letting a ten or eleven year old sit in a car alone, takes away their independence. As I stated previously, ten years old do have common sense, and the ability to make choices. Choices such as, getting out of the car. And if you can’t leave your ten year old in a car alone for fifteen minutes without them doing something terrible, what does that say about you as a parent? Well, not much, because there are several flaws in this argument. Not every child knows what to do in every situation (most adults don’t either). Let’s say you want your ten year old to have air conditioning, so you leave the keys in the ignition, but tell them to leave the keys alone. The child waits until you are gone, and decides to give themselves a driving lesson. This is not a farfetched thing, there are a lot of kids in that age range who have attempted to drive, even stolen their parents’ cars. This may be a hypothetical scenario, but as we all know, there are times when we tell our kids not to do something, and they do it anyways.

Suppose your child was abducted after you left him/her in the car alone. That says nothing about your child’s ability to behave themselves, but it does say a lot about how irresponsible you are. Let me be very clear: Children are abducted from all kinds of places. School grounds, front lawns, street corners, and there are many variables to those incidents and parents/guardians are not always at fault. The organization Love 146 was founded by a man who was doing an undercover investigation of a brothel in Southern Asia. This brothel was filled with girls around the ages of ten and eleven. You may want to say to yourself, “But that’s a third world country! That doesn’t happen in the United States!” I haven’t been raped, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s a common and frustrating misconception that human trafficking only happens in a third world country. Contrary to that, Great Britain has one of the highest human trafficking records in the world. You can go here hear to read all about the statistics of human trafficking in the United States: Polaris Project – Human Trafficking Statistics in USA.

I’m not saying we should shelter our children. I have seen the effects of a sheltered childhood and it isn’t pretty. I don’t think we need to scare our children into being safe either. But, at a certain age, we ought to be honest with them about what is not safe. We need to put away our pride and understand that our child’s safety is top priority over our laziness to be a parent. Leaving your kid in a car because you don’t feel like going through the mild hassle of bringing them into the grocery store, hair salon, or wherever, is laziness. So what if your kid begs you to stay in the car because they think the grocery store is boring. You don’t need to be intimidated by a ten year old, you can say no to them. And if you aren’t willing to be a decent parent, then don’t bring your kid with you to do your errands. There are things called babysitters and family members who will watch your kid while you’re gone.

If you still think it’s okay to leave a child in a car alone, then I have another video for you. Granted, the video is made by a veterinarian responding to people who leave their dogs in hot cars, but the end result of the experiment is the same whether it’s a pet or a child in the car.

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