When the weather gets hot, there is always an increase in stories about kids who have been injured or even killed after their parents have left them in the car while they went into stores or other locations. These stories are every parent’s worst nightmare, and while it may not seem like something that happens that often, it’s more common than you think because heatstroke is one of the most prominent causes of non-crash fatalities in children.
You may be wondering what the law says about leaving children in the car, and the answer is a little more complicated than you may think. If you are concerned about your personal case, seek a lawyer for further information.
The Dangers of Leaving a Kid in the Car
While leaving a child in the car for a few minutes may not seem that harmful, especially if the child is old enough to be alone for a few minutes, cars can get incredibly hot, and the temperatures can quickly lead to heatstroke, which can lead to painful side effects or death.
Even on a mild day, the car can still be too hot for children to safely be in, so you should never leave your child alone in a car. Even when the weather is still in the upper sixties, the car’s temperature can still reach 110 degrees or higher.
Not only does the temperature get incredibly hot in a car, but children are more prone to heatstroke than adults, so they are even more likely to face negative consequences when in the heat for too long. Even just a few minutes of extreme heat can lead to heatstroke.
Additionally, when you are not using the car, you should always keep your car door locked because when you leave an unlocked car, children may get into the vehicle without you realizing it.
Some things to remember to protect children:
- Never leave a child by themselves in a car
- Get children out of the car before you get anything else you need from the car
- Make sure children don’t have access to your car keys
- Always double-check to make sure all children are out of the car
- Go over car safety with children, so they know cars are not a toy
- If you ever see a child alone in a car, seek appropriate authorities
How Could a Parent Possibly Forget a Child in a Car?
When people read about stories of kids left in a car, they often wonder how in the world such a thing could happen. While there are times when children are left in cars because parents are negligent, most of the time, parents are not neglectful, but they forget. Child care can be stressful, and with a million things on their minds, parents can too easily forget children whenever their routines are interrupted.
For example, if a mother normally goes grocery shopping after her partner has returned from work, she becomes used to shopping alone. Thus, if something breaks that pattern and she has to take her child with her to the store, she may be so used to shopping alone that she forgets the child in the car.
Many people don’t think they could ever forget their children in a car, but because we often resort to habitual behaviors, we often run on autopilot without fully contemplating what we are doing. This mistake can happen to anyone, especially when people aren’t aware of the dangers of leaving children in the car.
What Happens Legally If You Do Leave Your Child in the Car?
Leaving a child in a car unattended can result in both criminal and civil charges, and the exact legal results will depend on the specifics of the case and the caretaker’s level of negligence or recklessness. If a babysitter, for example, would leave the child in the car, the parents of the child could sue the babysitter for the injury or death of the child.
One charge a parent may face if they leave their child alone in a car is child endangerment. To be charged with child endangerment, the Ohio Revised Code 2919.22 states that a parent should not do anything that creates a substantial risk to a child under eighteen, and such reckless behavior defies the parent’s duty of care and mandate to protect their children.
Some considerations that are taken into account when considering if an adult has endangered a child include:
- The child’s age, maturity, and abilities
- How long the adult left the child
- Whether the parent knew there reasonably could be a risk of harm
- If a parent took proper precautions to safeguard the child
For example, leaving a twelve-year-old child in a car with the air conditioning running for half an hour is likely developmentally appropriate for that child, but leaving an infant in a hot car for any period of time is not appropriate and could lead to charges of child endangerment.
If you mistakenly left your child in a car, the best course of action is to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney in Ohio. Most of all, if you have made a terrible mistake by accidentally leaving your child in the car, be compassionate with yourself because even the best parents can make dreadful mistakes such as these. However, with increased awareness, parents can become more vigilant.
Don’t Forget About Other Car Dangers
While heatstroke is the most common harm of leaving a child alone in a car, it is not the only danger. Just a few minutes is enough time for a child to get seriously injured or even die.
Some other things you need to keep in mind:
- Cold weather: When the weather is cold, children in the car alone can suffer from hypothermia. Children are less resistant to the cold than adults. Even if they are bundled up, being in the cold for too long can be detrimental to a child’s health.
- Don’t leave your keys: Don’t leave the car running with your child alone in the car. A child could do several dangerous things, including driving the car, getting out of the car, or otherwise hurting themselves.
- Child abduction: While this scenario may seem extreme, child predators have a chance to take or victimize children who are unattended, and it’s just not worth the risk.
These are just a few examples of bad things that can happen when you leave your child alone in the car.
Find a Columbus Defense Attorney
If you have left your child alone in a car, getting legal advice is important. If you are in this position, you likely feel guilty for what you have done, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve legal help.