At what age is it ok to leave them in the car? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 06:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm wondering at what age you think it's ok to leave your child in the car while you run inside some place?

I'm not talking about the mall or grocery store - I'm talking about parking right in front of some place and running in and right back out in a matter of seconds with the car in sight all the time.

Like the Post Office - it literally takes me 15 seconds to run inside, dump a box in the barrel and be back outside. I can see the car the entire time.

Or the dry cleaner. I can park and run in - I can see the car the entire time and am parked directly in front of the door.

My kids beg me to be allowed to stay in the car for short little things like this. They hate getting in and out. I try to reserve trips like that for when they're in school but, that's not always possible.

So, at what age do you start allowing your kids to stay in the car. Again, I'm not talking long trips into a grocery store or mall, I'm talking short trips where the car is in sight the entire time. My kids want me to start allowing them to do this and up to this point, I've not allowed it but, I'm wondering if I'm being over protective. They are almost 7rys old and 5.5 and very mature. They would stay in their car seats and read. But still......
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#2 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 06:44 PM
 
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Depending on circumstance, I sometimes leave my similarly aged children in the car. I've never understood the big hubub that people make over leaving a child locked in the car, keys taken out of the ignition, for less than a minute while the car remains in sight.

Um, I live in MN where the temperature was -20 last week, nevermind the windchill. You bet I left my kids warm in the car while I dropped off a package at the post office.

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#3 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 06:47 PM
 
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I agree with the PP, but check your state's laws.
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#4 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 06:48 PM
 
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If I could see the car the whole time, I'd probably do it for children the age that yours are. But ask me again in two years when I'm actually in that situation. Because if I think about it long enough I'll probably change my mind. I've left my ds in the car in someone's driveway to go up to their front porch. Even for that short distance, I take the keys and lock the door.

For a post office situation, I would bring them in with me if there was any chance I'd be detained even for a minute.

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#5 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 06:48 PM
 
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I will let my kids stat in the car for just these situations and they are 8, 7 and 2. I have been comfortable doing it for about a year or so. Until recently I would bring my toddler with me but now I am ok with it since her sisters are older.

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#6 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 06:58 PM
 
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Where I live, there's no such thing as ANY errand that's guaranteed to be "a matter of seconds with the car in sight the whole time."

My post office just isn't that efficient, and the way it's set up, the front door isn't visible from the area where the clerks are. I suppose if I was just dropping off a letter or into an outside mailbox it would be different, but honestly I wouldn't even go to the post office for that, as we get mail pickup from the mailbox near my front door. If I go to the post office, it's to go inside and stay 5-30 minutes while I stand on line for a clerk. And we don't use a dry cleaner- the only "dry clean only" items I own are a couple of winter coats that only get washed in the spring.

If you're talking about it literally being a few seconds, and not going more than 5 feet away from the car (say, dropping a bag of stuff for donations into a drop-box in a parking lot) I've done that with infants in a carseat. I do make sure to turn off the car first, and keep the car keys in my pocket, not the transmission, to minimize the chance of a car-jacking while I'm right there.

If you're talking about an errand that's normally 5 minutes but could potentially be delayed, then I didn't give my kids the option of staying in the car until they were about 9 or 10, and I also felt safe giving them the option of staying home alone while I went out to do errands. By age 11.5 or 12 I've let them babysit for younger siblings.

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#7 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 07:10 PM
 
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My sons are 6 and 3 and I leave them in the car if it's going to be a matter of seconds-- running up to the book drop at the library, for instance, or handing a $20 bill to a gas station attendant. I wouldn't leave my 3 yr. old if the older one wasn't with us, though, because he'd be upset.
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#8 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 07:12 PM
 
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I've left my 4 and 7 year olds in the car while I run in and drop something off and FedEx. It literally is running in, putting the item on the counter and walking away. No need to wait, no need to pay.

If you're truly able to keep the car in sight, take the keys and set the emergency brake, I'd say errands of under 5 minutes would be my limit.

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#9 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 07:45 PM
 
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I think that you should check your state law to see what age kids can legally be left alone. Someone may write down your license plate number and report you to CPS, especially if the weather is very hot or very cold and they see you doing this.
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#10 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 08:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post
I think that you should check your state law to see what age kids can legally be left alone.
This feels like an obtuse question, but how does one do this?

Thanks!

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#11 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 08:29 PM
 
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Here in Illinois we had a bad run of kids getting baked in cars in the summer a couple years in a row. So, now thanks to the few we have the "Not even for a second" laws. It sucks. I feel paranoid just running back into the house to grab something. Good luck.

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#12 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 09:16 PM
 
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For me, it depends on the place.

When I lived in DFW, I NEVER left my kids in the car, not even to run in the house for something. It just did not feel safe.

It's just different in Vermont. I would not go into the grocery store, but I would go into almost any storefront type place if I could see the car. If they want to stay in the car, that's fine by me.

It should be noted that growing up, my parents ALWAYS left us in the car, and it was fun and nothing ever happened. It sure was better than dragging around after my mom in the fabric store. And, my aunt and uncle still leave kids in the car, especially if they're sleeping. They don't babysit for me, but I remind myself of this when I get antsy about going in to pay for gas, and I don't want to drag all three into a nasty gas station.
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#13 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 09:23 PM
 
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I live in Chicago. I do NOT leave my kids in the car for a second if I'm not htere with them. I hesitate to buckle them in and then run back to the house. I was at a total loss as to what to do when the twins were infants because I could only bring one out to the car at a time.
Dh started leaving our oldest ds in the car I think when he was 12. I still feel iffy about leaving our oldest alone in the car (now 13). HOwever, I do leave him and with his siblings. Afterall, I allow him to babysit them at home - but there we can keep the doors locked and we know the neighbors. In a car - who knows what freak could come along.

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#14 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 09:30 PM
 
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I don't think it makes much difference how old the kids are in the type of scenario you described. I would consider that safe with any age child, unless the child is likely to get herself out of her carseat and do something dangerous (which seems unlikely in that amount of time.) There's no reason why it would be more dangerous to leave an infant alone in the car for a minute or two than it would be to leave a 7 year old. In fact, it's probably more dangerous with an older kid who can get out of her carseat and open the car door. (Of course, even if it's safe, it may not be legal.)
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#15 of 42 Old 01-18-2009, 09:40 PM
 
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The way I see it. If they are old enough to understand the situation, and understand the safety rules of staying in the car and react appropriately to a situation that may come up then they are probably old enough to stay in the car alone for a short period of time. I think the first time DD was left alone in the car she was about 7 or so. Because of something that happened to a friend DH insisted she know which pedal was the break too. My friend was in the car alone when it started to roll back and only an unlocked front door and a quick thinking pedestrian avoided a potentially dangerous situation.

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#16 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 01:32 AM
 
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My basic approach is I have to be comfortable with my ds coming to find me. So I started letting him stay in the car in situations where he wouldn't need to cross a parking lot, knew where exactly to find me, etc. I know he refused to get out of the car at the post office once or twice when he was 5 1/2 (the parking lot is around the corner from the entrance, not in sight). I let him since I was really confidant he stay put, based on his mood, and he was really familiar with the place. He's a pretty cautious kid and we don't live in the sort of neighborhood where people get alarmed and try talking to kids in cars (I think well intentioned folk are more of a hazard then ones with poor intentions, lol) or call the police for that sort of thing. I wouldn't have done it in another neighborhood. I'm more comfortable with it now, at age 7. 5 was iffy, imo, but how is it different then the 5 yos I see walking to school alone?

I never would have left him if he couldn't get out of the car by himself. I always worry what if something horrible happens to me and I get taken to the hospital unconscious and no one knows there is a child in my car.

And, of course, I take the keys and the lighter has been removed.

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#17 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 01:52 AM
 
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OP, for the situations you described, I think it sounds fine. If you are comfortable with it, then I am sure it is fine. There are so many variables... you just gotta go with your gut sometimes. If it is starting to feel ridiculous to make them go in the post office with you, then it probably kind of is.
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#18 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 01:53 AM
 
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I live in a very rural area and I leave my kids in the car if I am just going to be a matter of seconds and if I can see them. I don't ever leave them in the car in the summertime, no matter how long I'll be. I live in the desert and our summer temps can reach 125+

When I run in to the post office I can see them, if I drop library books in the bin, if I'm running in to the gas station to plop a $20 on the counter for gas...all of those are fine by me.
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#19 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 01:58 AM
 
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Here where I live and knowing my kids I have been doing it since dd was 7 and ds 3. Both strapped into their sets and dd knowing what to do should she need me.

 
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#20 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 02:01 AM
 
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Quick story:

When my husband and his sister were about 9 they stayed in the car while their dad ran into the drugstore. They released the emergency brake and rolled back in the parking lot and their dad ran out and got behind the car to stop it.

So even with older kids it can still be risky. My son is only two and still strapped in the car seat. The most I'll do is jump out of the car to put something in a donation bin, put the cart back or drop of a book or movie.

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#21 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 06:21 AM
 
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Ya know, I grew up being left happily in the car for all sorts of things. Brother and I loved it.

But I just can't imagine doing it.

One time when DS was still in the infant seat (he outgrew it by height BEFORE 4 months old) I left him in the car while I walked up a curb, across a sidewalk, and checked my mailbox...was 5 feet away from the car, walked backwards even. That was just too much. Next time I checked the mail with him in the car, that was the ONLY time I ever popped the baby bucket out of the base (so heavy!) to haul him over that same 5 feet so I wasn't leaving him alone in the car. Then I stopped checking the mail when driving into apartment complex.


So I just can't imagine leaving him somewhere else, even when older.

and I think it's not legal in my state. Just what I remember hearing...

Possibly you could call the police station to see if it's legal in your state?
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#22 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 09:25 AM
 
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For me it is not an age, it is more of a check list.

-old enough to stay home alone/babysit
-nobody in the car that would unbuckle and try to drive (like a 3 or 5 yo)
-child is okay with it
-I don't think anybody wil bother me or them about it

It isn't just what other people will do nor is it just what the children in the car will do, even on accident. (removing the parking brake in a car with a manual transmission, bumping the gear stick, opening the door or window to talk to people they know, etc)

If I just have my boys with me (12 and 1 yo) I make ds1 sit in front so that people will know I didn'tleave the baby alone. I don't assume I will be able to watch the car the whole time. If the errand is that easy I can send ds1 in to handle it.

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#23 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 09:57 AM
 
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I've been doing it since dd1 was a newborn. My car has a remote start feature and temp sensing climate control. So I remove keys, lock doors and start car. It will turn on the heat or A/C as needed. If someone were to break into the car and take it out of park w/o the key in the ignition, the engine dies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MisaGoat View Post
Quick story:

When my husband and his sister were about 9 they stayed in the car while their dad ran into the drugstore. They released the emergency brake and rolled back in the parking lot and their dad ran out and got behind the car to stop it.
This could only happen if the car has a manual transmission. I would definitely be more wary in that case if the kids were able to get out of their car seats.

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#24 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 09:57 AM
 
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This topic always gets a wide variety of answers.

I leave my 6 year old in the car to drop of packages, grab us a drink at the convenience store .. anything where the car will be right out front, in my sight and the errand will only take a few seconds.

I found this link that seems to have info on current state laws, and proposed ones, for those who are interested.

http://www.kidsandcars.org/legislation.html

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#25 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 10:33 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
Where I live, there's no such thing as ANY errand that's guaranteed to be "a matter of seconds with the car in sight the whole time."
I'm sure it depends on where you live.

Where I live is in the country. I know everyone almost every place I go and I usually get in and out quickly, especially at the post office. I left my oldest in the car alone at the age of 10. I didn't do it before then because my kids never liked sitting in the car anyway. But I usually leave the kids at home and my oldest (almost 14) is in charge if I run an errand. Between DH and I someone is always in and out since we both work from home most days. And we homeschool and my kids don't like to go everywhere with me and prefer to stay home. Like I said, we live in the country, no visible neighbors so I don't really worry. We've gone over and over the safety rules and what to do in emergencies.

I think kids are much safer home alone (if they are mature enough and the right age ) than they are sitting in a car in a parking lot without me. But thats JMO.

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#26 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 11:25 AM
 
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I just wanted to add - when my young son was a few months old, I took him in his car seat into our library to drop off books. I was literally gone, perhaps 3 minutes to 5 minutes tops. I could see the van from where we were standing in library but turned my back on the van.

So I return to my van and find it has disappeared.

The van was stolen in less than 5 minutes and I was left standing there with my son in his car seat wondering what had happened!

So even though I'm pretty confident my kids could survive alone in the car for a few minutes (if they were strapped into seats). I'd be nervous someone would try to steal the car!

My mom left my brother and I alone in the car in the 1970s quite a few times. I think the doors weren't even locked! I think she was more naive about things that could "go wrong".
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#27 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 11:59 AM
 
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I leave my 3 year old in the car to run into the corner store, but I live in a very tiny community and I know everyone.

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#28 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla
Where I live, there's no such thing as ANY errand that's guaranteed to be "a matter of seconds with the car in sight the whole time."
It must depend upon where you live. I live in a suburb of Phoenix and even though it's a busy suburb, there are plenty of places where I can park and just run in. Even the post office - I print up all my postage online, attach it to the box so literaly, it takes me seconds to walk in the big glass doors (car still in sight), walk 10 steps across the lobby (car still in sight), dump the package in the barrel and turn around and walk back out.

Same with the dry cleaner. It's never so busy that I can't pull right up to the open doors, walk 10 steps to the desk and hand them my clothes.

Now, if there were someplace where there was a possibility of being detained - like I had to wait in line at the PO for something then, no way would I leave my kids in the car. But, if it's a guaranteed couple of seconds, I am feeling like it's safe?
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#29 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 12:16 PM
 
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If I stop and really think about it? When they have a driver's license.

But if I am feeling less paranoid ... I'd say at the age when they are mature enough to be left home alone, so 12 or so.

And it's cars that I'm scared of, not abductions or anything.
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#30 of 42 Old 01-19-2009, 12:40 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuesday View Post
I just wanted to add - when my young son was a few months old, I took him in his car seat into our library to drop off books. I was literally gone, perhaps 3 minutes to 5 minutes tops. I could see the van from where we were standing in library but turned my back on the van.

So I return to my van and find it has disappeared.

The van was stolen in less than 5 minutes and I was left standing there with my son in his car seat wondering what had happened!
Were the keys in the ignition? Was the van left unlocked? If you had left the baby in the van, you probably would have locked the door and taken the keys with you, right?
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