State Senate passed a bill last month making it illegal to leave a child, under the age of eight, alone in the car. The bill also states a child younger than eight cannot be left alone or with anyone under the age of 12.
This means, that even though a NY parent may be parked right in front of the dry cleaner, they could be fined for leaving their 7 year old alone in the car while they run in to pick up shirts. According to The Queens Chronicle: “Those found guilty of an infraction would be fined no more than $50 for the first violation, no more than $100 for a second infraction within 18 months of the first, and no more than $250 for a third, but at that point it would be a misdemeanor and the person would have to appear in court.”
Some are criticizing the law, saying that it is overprotective and believe it would be difficult for a police officer to tell if a kid was in fact, younger than 8. However, supporters say that children left in cars have died because of overheating. Data from the journal Pediatrics shows that between 1998 and 2004, 230 children in the United States died of hyperthermia (overheating) while waiting in parked cars. In 2005, there were 19 deaths by mid-summer for the same reason and simply cracking the windows has little effect on the interior temperature.
According to my police officer friend, New Jersey does not have a law like this, but does have the ” endangering the welfare of a minor” statute, which encompasses almost any circumstance involving improper caretaking of children.
What do you think? Do you agree that a child should never be left alone in the car, under any circumstances? Or do you think it’s totally fine to leave your sleeping child in the car for 5 minutes while you pick up his sister a the school door?