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Old 02-27-2012, 06:54 PM
42 posts, read 131,985 times
Reputation: 62


Today, while picking up my 4 year old from preschool, I left my older daughter alone in the car--she's 6. I turned off the car and locked it initially but then I opened the side door anticipating that my 4 year old would be getting in. I didn't go into the preschool, I was outside, maybe 50 feet from my car. I was talking to the teacher for maybe 10 minutes. My six year old was yelling at me to hurry up, so I was close enough to the car to hear her. Was this wrong? illegal? This is one of the things I always question as a parent.

BTW, I live in Virginia. The laws are pretty ambiguous here and this is what I found:

VA currently has PROPOSED legislation regarding children left unattended in a motor vehicle.
HB 2711 Child unattended in a car; unlawful for younger than six years.
William K. Barlow

Summary as introduced:
Child unattended in a car; penalty. Provides that it is unlawful for any person who is responsible for a child younger than six years of age to leave such child unattended in a motor vehicle if the conditions within the vehicle or in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle, including outside temperature, present a risk to the health or safety of the child. The penalty for a first offense is a $100 civil penalty, for a second offense a Class 4 misdemeanor, and for a third or subsequent offense a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Exactly what is considered unattended? My mom guilt has me thinking this was not the right thing to do, so I don't see me doing this again. But is it against the law?

Your thoughts?
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Old 02-27-2012, 07:02 PM
Location: MMU->ABE->ATL->ASH
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As long as you can see and hear the child, and the keys are not in the car i would consider the child attended.

If you went into the daycare center, that would be unattended.
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Old 02-27-2012, 07:04 PM
Location: Space Coast
1,989 posts, read 4,119,232 times
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The proposed law you quoted reads children under 6. Your daughter is 6. So that seems legal. Plus, you were within sight and sound of the car in a preschool parking lot, which doesn't seen particularly unsafe.
I think her yelling at you to hurry up might be heightening the mommy guilt.
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Old 02-27-2012, 07:24 PM
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Under 6 is fine I guess, although it bugs me when the government sticks its nose in every aspect of our lives like this.

I always wonder if a small child is in more danger walking through a parking lot than sleeping in a car for 10 minutes. I leave my kids (7 and 5) in the car to get dry cleaning or to drop off something at UPS. I have left my 7yr old in the car alone while I chatted at a friend's house for a few minutes. I leave my 5yr old alone in the car every day at school pick up...its just a few minutes. I always turn the car off and I'd never leave them if it was too hot or cold (I live in the PNW most of the time the weather is mild).

I guess it depends where you live too. I live in a little town with almost no crime.
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Old 02-27-2012, 08:33 PM
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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Originally Posted by hml1976 View Post
I live in a little town with almost no crime.
I don't think there is such a place nowadays. All it takes is one drugged up crazy to ram into your car or to try to steal your car.
I always hated to get gas in the car when the kids were really little. Do you wake them up and trudge with them in bad weather to go pay for the gas or take the chance and leave them alone for a short minute to run inside? And inevitable I would get the pump with the broken credit card transaction feature. Sure glad those days are over.
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Old 02-27-2012, 08:46 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
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I always read about tragedies involving children left in cars...the ones where the mother forgets to drop the infant off at daycare before going to work and then comes out of work to find the infant dead in the car seat, the ones where the car is stolen and the baby was left inside, etc.

It's true that you were in sight and hearing range of the car so that's not really leaving the child unattended.

I've never left my kids in the car anywhere for any length of time. I live in South TX though and most days it's hot enough that the temperature inside a car can get dangerous pretty quickly.
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Old 02-27-2012, 08:48 PM
Location: Mid-Atlantic
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I still take my girls in , no matter where.. Even just dropping off dry cleaning.
I always took my little one out of the car when picking up her big sister from preschool and in Kindergarten, I picked up my oldest and had to take my little one out while she was napping pouring rain, wind, snow, whatever was happening, she was out of the car...
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Old 02-27-2012, 09:02 PM
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I'm more worried about somebody calling the police on me than anything happening to my kid. The likelihood of a sudden car jacking or kidnapping is very slim, and I'd never be dumb enough to leave my kid alone in a locked car in extreme hot or cold, or for a long period of time. I have on occasion forgotten my cell phone, and ran back into the house to get it leaving her in the car for no more than 30 secs, or paid for gas, while making sure I could see the car the entire time, but I don't see that as being neglectful. There are some who do, and would be more than happy to call social services on me for that though. Once, at a store, I put my daughter in her car seat, loaded the groceries into the car, LOCKED the car, then walked no more than 10 feet away to put the grocery cart in the corral, and someone was writing down my license plate number. There's always somebody ready to jump with both feet into your business, so I would be careful for that reason alone.
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Old 02-27-2012, 11:28 PM
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well, it states "if the conditions within the vehicle or in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle, including outside temperature, present a risk to the health or safety of the child."

Therefore, wouldn't it be logical that it's legal as long as you can demonstrate there was no danger?
I've left my 2 y.o. in a locked car a few times, never for more than a few minutes tho and always within just a few steps and/or with the car visible - like running into a store or post office where the parking is right in front of it. I would never do it in a regular supermarket-type parking lot though. I'm always a bit uncomfortable with it though, more, as the previous poster said, over someone else freaking out as opposed to the non-existent chance of something happening in these two minutes. I'll also run up to the house to grab or drop something off - the car is right under the windows, but there's a flight of stairs leading up to the door which is a pain to walk up with him and carrying something. I don't believe there's any danger in that whatsoever.
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Old 02-28-2012, 12:30 AM
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I dont really do it, but i've done it to run inside to pay for gas or something real quick where the car was right outside the door, so i could see it. That's about the only time i've left my son alone in the car.
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