How Long is Too Long to Leave a Child in a Car?

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Many a parent has faced this dilemma: You need to hop out of the car to get cash from the ATM or run inside to pay for your gas, but there’s your child sound asleep in the car seat. Do you keep one eye on the tyke, dash in and dash back out? Or do you rouse the infant and take him or her along for a cranky ride?

An Illinois woman recently found out the hard way what kind of penalties can result from this practice when she was arrested and charged with child endangerment for leaving her 2-year-old daughter in the car while she dropped money into a Salvation Army kettle.

The charges were dropped, but incensed mothers came down on both sides of the issue, some in defense of the woman — who was gone for only minutes — and others who saw the potential for danger in the situation.

Safety groups like Kids and Cars advocate taking the child or children with you no matter the situation. Last year, 232 children died in non-moving vehicular accidents (although this included those who had climbed into a car of their own accord), and so far in 2008 the tally is 36.

With summer on the way, the most crucial thing for parents to remember is how quickly a car can heat up. The temperature can rise 19 degrees in less than 10 minutes, and even a brief trip to the ATM can be potentially deadly.

Parents Weigh the Risks of Leaving Kids in Cars (Chicago Sun-Times)

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