1. Good afternoon, friends,
    The other day, a friend of a friend mentioned that she left her child in the car while running into to take care of quick errands. Another person said, “But it’s so hot outside now!” (Our state has over 100 degree highs.) She said, “I always leave the engine running – I wouldn’t dare leave her in there with no air conditioning!”
    I don’t have kids myself and I realize a lot of people leave their kid in the car to run inside a store quickly, but in many states it’s completely illegal, including ours. Should I have said something, or minded my own business? I know it can be rude to tell others how to parent, particularly when one doesn’t have one’s own children.

    Note: No one’s kid was in a car while this conversation was taking place.

    • Lilli

      I would mention to your friend that it’s illegal in a tone that implies you are trying to help her out so she doesn’t run into trouble with the law (which could happen if a cruiser happens to pull up to her car in one of those parking lots). I hate when drivers of cars in which I’m a passenger text while driving and recently a friend (who isn’t from my state) did it while we were in the car. I let him know that it is in fact illegal to text and drive here, explained the hefty fine, and he quickly thanked me for the info a put the phone away, whereas when I ask friends of mine who are from this state to stop texting and driving because it makes me uncomfortable they get much more defensive.

      • Thanks to both of you (Vanna, I should tell everyone I know that you think me a fountain of wisdom… I’m sure my husband in particular would love that!)

        I have not ever said anything to any friends who have mentioned leaving their kids in the car for “just a moment.” I never knew how to handle it. When I encounter strangers on the internet, I simply cite a source for the law. But many of those people feel I am overreacting, or that other people who bring up your exact points are being hysterical. I guess that’s why I’ve always been hesitant to breath a word about it.

    • Jerry

      Laura: You may want to be careful throwing the term “illegal” around. My reading of Oklahoma’s statute suggests that the behavior in question is not illegal if the child is over six years old.

      It’s always per se rude to tell a parent how to parent their kids unless (i) there is a health or safety issue at hand, or (ii) the parent asks for your advice. In this case, it seems that mom has opened the door by volunteering that she leaves junior in the car. You are certainly within your right to comment on this situation.

      Having established that you can comment, the question become what do you say. The correct answer to this problem depends on the facts and circumstances. You haven’t provided enough of these for me to give you a good response. Is the kid an infant in a car seat? Perhaps you tell parent all sorts of horrible stories, even when parents thought they were taking appropriate precautions. (Who knows when the car stalls and the air conditioner fails? Who knows when someone sees a running car and decides to abscond with it?) Is the kid school age? Then I’m sure that the kid can get out of the car if he has to. (Mom left us in the car when we were in elementary school — of course, the temperature didn’t get up to the 100s either.)

      • You’re correct of course that the age of the child matters, and you can’t psychically know that this friend of a friend has a baby, not a 7 year old. So yes, I was talking about a very young child but failed to say so.

        • Joanna

          I was just going to ask about the age of the child in question myself – if it’s a ten-year-old, for instance, it’s much different and I don’t think it’s anything wrong to dash into a gas station or something leaving him or her in the car for a moment. But if it’s a baby, then NEVER, in any weather or circumstances, should he or she be left alone in the car! It just takes a second for someone to snatch a baby.

  2. Vanna Keiler

    Just Laura: you are a fountain of wisdom, but alas! it seems your dear friend is not. Perhaps next time the topic comes up, you can offer her these possible scenarios:
    (1) In a “few minutes” anything can happen;
    (2) Depending on age of child, child could change/shift car gears
    (3) Someone could carjack car, with tot inside
    (4) Police show up, she is hauled off to jail, child in protective services
    (5) Something could happen to her in store – five minutes becomes one hour. If child was with her, someone could have assisted her child while other people assisted her.

    The unknown is a frightening prospect, and these laws cover those possibilities. If/when it is appropriate to elaborate, I would speak up. It’s great that you are trying to help educate your friend. Sometimes we have to educate each other, but hopefully she won’t resent you and instead consider it worthwhile, life-saving advice from someone who cares. Just my two cents. :)

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