Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Is it Safe and Legal to Leave Your Kids in the Car?

child sitting in a car seat

You’ve heard the tragic stories of children left in hot cars during the summer. Sometimes, all you need is a few moments to run into the store and run back out, or the phone rings just after you’ve loaded your little one into her child seat. Tragedy can strike quickly, and in extreme conditions, your child might be the one who suffers.

According to KidsAndCars.org, an average of 37 children die each year from heat-related deaths from being left inside the car. Countless more experience near-misses that could have ended very differently.

Is it safe to leave your kids in the car?

You only hear about the heart-wrenching incidents in the news. For every accident that occurs from leaving a child in the car, an untold number of instances happen without incident. So then, is it actually unsafe to leave your children in the car alone?

The dangers are many

It’s quite possible to leave your child in the car without incident. The biggest problem is that there are several variables that are beyond your control once you leave the car. Each one of them can be a safety-related concern in its own way.

Heat Stroke

As mentioned, an average of 37 children die annually in the United States from being left in a hot car unattended. An untracked number of children are hospitalized and treated for the same concern.

Heat stroke is essentially the body overheating, and critical body functions shut down because of it. The greenhouse effect from the sun’s rays can heat up the interior of the car to 125 degrees in must minutes. And, 80% of the increase in temperature happens within the first 10 minutes.

Child abduction

If you can’t see your vehicle, there’s no telling who is looking in on your child. A stranger may be passing by, observing your child alone in the car. Within 10 seconds, a kidnapper could break the window and take your child from your car.

In-car accidents

Snacking inside a car is commonplace for your children. Whether you’ve given them a bite to eat as a distraction while you’re gone or if they find a small object in their car seat, it can be a choking hazard. An accident can occur from the “safety” of your car. If you’re not there to quickly respond, the results could be disastrous.

Busy children

Some inquisitive minds are quite industrious. They figure out the workings of a seat belt, even in a complex system like a child seat. Those same little fingers know the door opens when you pull on the handle. It’s very possible for intelligent children to find their way out of their car seat and open the door. At this point, they are exposed to dangers from other vehicles, people, and even wandering away.

Running engine

You might believe that leaving your car running is helpful, but those same smart kids could find their way into the front seat, engaging the car into gear, or shutting the engine off.

As well, a potential carjacker could break into your vehicle and drive away with your kids unknowingly in the backseat.

Is it legal to leave your kids in the car?

Even though it doesn’t appear to be a safe proposition, some parents may still choose to leave their children in the car unattended. Laws are widely varied on this topic across the United States with each state having their own set of laws. There are no federal laws applicable to leaving your children in the car alone.

Here are the laws for each state regarding unattended children in cars.

  • Alabama: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Alaska: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Arizona: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Arkansas: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • California: A child under the age of 7 cannot be left unattended in a vehicle if the conditions pose a significant risk to health or wellbeing. Someone at least 12 years of age must be present. Also, a child six or under may not be left in the car alone with the engine running or keys in the ignition.

  • Colorado: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Connecticut: A child 12 or younger may not be left in a vehicle unsupervised for a time period that poses a substantial risk to health or safety.

  • Delaware: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Florida: A child under the age of 6 cannot be left in a car for a period of time longer than 15 minutes. In addition, a child under the age of 6 may not be left in running vehicle or with the keys in the ignition for any length of time.

  • Georgia: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Hawaii: Children under the age of nine may not be left in a car unattended for longer than 5 minutes.

  • Idaho: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Illinois: A child six years or younger may not be left in a vehicle unattended for longer than 10 minutes.

  • Indiana: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Iowa: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Kansas: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Kentucky: It is illegal to leave a child under the age of eight unattended in a vehicle. However, it is only prosecutable if a death occurs.

  • Louisiana: It is unlawful to leave a child under the age of 6 unattended in a vehicle for any period of time without supervision by someone at least 10 years of age.

  • Maine: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Maryland: It is illegal to leave a child under the age of 8 confined in a vehicle out of sight, without supervision by someone at least 13 years old.

  • Massachusetts: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Michigan: A child under the age of 6 may not be left in a vehicle unattended for any period of time if there is an unreasonable risk of harm.

  • Minnesota: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Mississippi: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Missouri: It is a felony to leave a child under the age of 10 in a car unattended when the result is death or injury from a collision or from hitting a pedestrian.

  • Montana: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Nebraska: It is illegal to leave a child under seven years of age unattended in a vehicle for any period of time.

  • Nevada: A child under the age of 7 cannot be left unattended in a vehicle if the conditions pose a significant risk to health or wellbeing. Someone at least 12 years of age must be present. Also, a child six or under may not be left in the car alone with the engine running or keys in the ignition.

  • New Hampshire: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • New Jersey: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • New Mexico: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • New York: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • North Carolina: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • North Dakota: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Ohio: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Oklahoma: A child under the age of 7 cannot be left unattended in a vehicle if the conditions pose a significant risk to health or wellbeing. Someone at least 12 years of age must be present. Also, a child six or under may not be left in the car alone with the engine running or keys anywhere in the passenger compartment.

  • Oregon: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Pennsylvania: It is illegal to leave children under the age of 6 unattended in a vehicle out of sight when circumstances endanger the health or welfare of the child.

  • Rhode Island: A child 12 or younger may not be left in a vehicle unsupervised for a time period that poses a substantial risk to health or safety.

  • South Carolina: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • South Dakota: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Tennessee: A child under the age of 7 cannot be left unattended in a vehicle if the conditions pose a significant risk to health or wellbeing. Someone at least 12 years of age must be present. Also, a child six or under may not be left in the car alone with the engine running or keys anywhere in the passenger compartment.

  • Texas: It is illegal to leave a child under the age of seven unattended for a period of time longer than 5 minutes if not accompanied by someone 14 years of age or older.

  • Utah: It is illegal to leave a child under the age of nine unaccompanied if there is a risk of hyperthermia, hypothermia, or dehydration. Supervision must be by someone nine years of age or older.

  • Vermont: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Virginia: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Washington: It is illegal to leave someone under the age of 16 in a running vehicle.

  • West Virginia: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Wisconsin: There are currently no laws in this state.

  • Wyoming: There are currently no laws in this state.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...
P0477 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Pressure Control Valve Low
P0477 code means that the PCM has detected an abnormally low voltage reading often due to the exhaust back pressure control valve circuit.


Related questions

Q: There is trouble locking the left rear passenger door - 1995 Mercedes-Benz E320

Hello and thank you for contacting YourMechanic. Open the left passenger rear door and check to see what setting the child lock is on. If the lock is not on and it is set to unlock, then move the lever...

Q: What safety precautions should parents follow?

In addition to ensuring that children ride in the back, and that they’re correctly seated in a rear facing car seat, a front facing car seat, or booster seat as dictated by your state’s laws, you should also follow these...

Q: How should small children be seated?

Like infants, small children must be seated correctly in your car to ensure safety. Most states have very specific height and weight restrictions concerning child seating – consult your state’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for the rules that apply...