Step Out of the Vehicle…And Please Bring Your Child With You!

I have locked my keys in my car more times than I would care to admit. And I have done the obligatory running back to the car for the bag of groceries that didn’t make it into the kitchen.

But I can’t imagine ever leaving a child in a car!

There are various categories of such incidents. There are the parents who claim they got wrapped up in their thoughts and the business of their hectic day and simply FORGOT to take junior to school. Sometimes they realize their “mistake” before it’s too late. Oftentimes, the firefighters and coroner beat them to it.

Then there are the parents who KNOWINGLY leave their children in the car alone. Some do it for questionable reasons like frequenting gambling halls and strip joints. This is what I call the “I couldn’t take my child with me” excuse. Want to play poker or watch a sex show? Fine. Just don’t use the car as your babysitter.

There are also parents who routinely leave their children in the car so they can run into the hardware store or mail a letter. I call these the “Junior was sleeping and I didn’t want to disturb him” parents. Actually, they aren’t thinking of the child’s need for a nap. They are really worried about the inconvenience a ticked off, groggy child will pose to them as theysearch for 2-inch dry wall screws. It’s “easier” to just run in and get the stuff and run right back.

That is the category a woman from Orlando, Florida found herself in when she left her 2-month-old son in a car with the engine running. What was so urgent that she would jeopardize his safety like that? She left her umbrella at church and needed to run in to get it.

Parents like this justify their actions by saying things like “It will only take a second! He will only be out of my sight for a brief moment!”

And that is all it took for carjackers to drive off with her car, baby and all.

I remember being on the radio in Phoenix and talking about a similar story. Luckily the outcomes of both stories ended happily—the children were found safely because the carjackers had enough humanity to know they didn’t want to harm an innocent child.

So the woman’s car was found, doors flung open, and her infant was thankfully safe. But what if her baby HAD been kidnapped?? Assaulted or killed? That mother could have lost her precious child FOREVER. All for what? An umbrella?

Florida is one of many states that have started to hammer down on parents who do this to their children. It is now a second-degree misdemeanor for a child under six to be left unattended in a car for more than 15 minutes (or for even a brief moment if the car is RUNNING).

So this careless mother could face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Maybe laws like this will start waking some of these aloof parents up!

Too bad the law isn’t stricter than that. Why does it have to be longer than 15 minutes? And does the law mean that somehow it’s ok for a 7-year-old to be left alone?

There have been plenty of times when I had to take my children into a store when they didn’t really want to or when I really didn’t want to.

But if I can take 5 kids into the hardware store and find those 2-inch dry wall screws, anyone can.

Next time you see someone leaving a child in car to run an errand, ask them (if you feel like getting involved) if they would leave a hundred dollars worth of CDs on the dashboard. Chances are they wouldn’t.

That’s all the point you need to make.