Skip to main content
Back to Latest News

Is It Ever Okay To Leave Kids Alone In The Car?

Taking into consideration state laws as well as the safety of the situation can help parents determine if they should leave kids alone in the car.
Every parent has been left with the conundrum of what age they could or should leave their kids alone in the car. After all, if just running into the store for a quick minute to grab one item or to return something, it could take longer to get the kids out of the car than it would complete the errand at hand. If the day is not hot and the car can be seen at all times, then no risk seems apparent by securing kids in the car. And in many instances, everything turns out fine. But for those freak, horrible outcomes that could occur, it just may not be worth the risk of leaving kids in the car, regardless of how safe it seems.
Taking blatantly irresponsible parents out of the equation who leave their kids in the car unattended to go meet up with friends, go gambling, or the like, the reasons that parents choose to leave their kids alone in the car does not have malice or reckless intentions behind their actions. Taking into consideration the length of the errand, the temperament of the kids, and weather conditions, most make decisions after weighing the safety options. What does not get factored into the equation is what happens if the errands take longer than anticipated or accidents that could occur when the kids are by themselves in the car. This is because based on past experiences, there have been no problems. But just because nothing happened in the past does not mean it cannot in the future. Call it over cautious but if there is any risk that could be avoided by simply taking kids out of the car, meltdowns and all, that may be something to consider.
RELATED: There's Real Science Behind Why Parents Leave Kids In Hot Cars
Here are some things to think about before leaving kids alone in the car.
No one can live their life in a state of "what ifs." However, knowing that there are some significant dangers to leaving kids in the car alone may help parents make the decision as to whether they should do so or not. Heatstroke: Most parents recognize that on a hot summer day, kids should not be left alone in a car. In just a matter of moments, the inside of the car can grow to temperatures that would give heatstroke in a matter of minutes. However, what may not be so clear is that even on cooler days, heatstroke can occur as well.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when the weather is a cool 57 F outside, the temperature of a car can heat up to the point of causing kids to have heatstroke. Depending upon what they are wearing, how the sun is shining on the car, and how protected the car is from the elements, will all determine how quickly the core temperature reaches 107F. As such, there truly are no temperatures that are safe to keep kids in the car for long periods unattended. Choking: If kids are in the middle of snacking when the destination for errands is reached, parents do not want to take their snacks away. As such, they leave them in the car to finish eating while the short jaunt to the store is done. However, in a blink of an eye, that snack can become a choking hazard.
According to Safe Ride 4 Kids, when driving along in a car while kids eat, most times, parents do not recognize signs that their kids are choking because choking happens silently. This happens while parents are in the car. If parents are not in the car when choking happens, it could lead to devastating consequences. Getting out of the car: Depending upon the personality of kids in the car, some may be more adventurous than others. As a result, they may get out of car seats, press buttons, or open car doors. None of which is safe when left in the car unattended. According to UAB News, parking lots pose a high risk of injury or death for kids. So much so that every year, 5,000 kids are involved with parking lot accidents with over 200 resulting in death, per the publication. And regardless of how careful drivers are trying to be, because kids are "unpredictable," one sudden move that kids make in the parking lot could become disastrous.
Because parents do not believe their kids would get out of the car when left alone, parking lot safety in this regard does not come to mind. But depending upon how much kids like to explore; this could be a very real risk indeed.

It Varies By State

Whether or not kids are allowed to be in a car alone is something that varies from state to state. And because no two states seem to be on the same page when it comes to their laws, it can be confusing. Some states do not allow kids to be in the car alone. Period. Others, however, according to, have conditions in which kids are allowed to be alone. It boils down to age, the temperature, and whether there is an older sibling present. As such, before parents consider leaving their kids alone in the car for any amount of time, they should know what their state's laws are to determine if they are doing so lawfully or not.

Common Sense Should Prevail

Regardless of what laws state or how long an errand may take, parents should use common sense when deciding to leave their kids in the car. For those parents who have kids who are rambunctious and known to wiggle out of their seats, leaving them alone at any point is likely not a good idea. If the temperature is feeling on the warmer side outside, regardless of how long an errand is projected to take, kids should not be left in the car. And if kids are unable to determine if they are in danger of any form and know how to find help, if necessary, they probably need to accompany parents on their errand.
At the end of the day, parents need to ask themselves if the benefits outweigh the risks when leaving kids in the car alone. That will be the answer as to whether it should be done or not.
Source: American Academy of PediatricsSafe Ride 4 KidsUAB
Scroll to top of page