In 2022, the nonprofit child safety organization Kids and Car Safety documented 264 children were left alone in a vehicle that was stolen. This year, they have several documented cases already.
Founder and President, Janette Fennell, says victims of these incidents normally survive. However, it is traumatizing to those involved.
"Leaving children alone in vehicles is just a recipe for disaster," said Fennell.
There are many dangers of leaving a child alone in a vehicle, but many do not consider their child being taken in a stolen vehicle. Fennell says it only takes one minute for a a parent's worst nightmare to become a reality.
In Chattanooga Monday morning, a child was left asleep in the back seat while the her grandparents were inside a store when a suspect stole the vehicle. The driver crashed on I-75 and abandoned the child and vehicle.
"They hop in and they take off and maybe don't realize there's a child in the back seat," said Fennell.
She says most car thieves are only looking for a vehicle. If there is a child involved, she says they do one of two things:
"Thieves that know that will either just ditch the car with a child in the car," said Fennell. "Or, in many cases, they just take the child out and is left by the side of the road."
Fennell recommends using a drive through, curbside pickup, or partnering with friends to take turns running errands.
"These are some if the best parents who let their guard down for one minute. And, in my cases, causes terrible, terrible tragedies," said Fennell.
For more information on the dangers of children being left in a vehicle, visit the Kids and Car Safety website here.
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