Parents Talk: Is It Ever OK To Leave Your Kids in the Car?

Is it ever OK to leave your kids in the car unattended?


We've all thought about it, or maybe even done it.

You just have to run inside the post office real quick or pick up a child at preschool and you've got kids in carseats and you think, "Wouldn't it just be easier to just run in and leave them buckled in for just a minute?"

So what's the official word on this, is it illegal? Just frowned upon? Or up to parental discretion?

None of the above.

Minnesota State Statute says that child supervision guidelines are to be used. "It's not a crime, but it is a supervision issue," Jessica Nelson of Wright County Child Protection said this week.

"It's just not a good idea because it's not safe, there are countless statistics on kids getting hypothermia, kids getting unbuckled and getting the car out of gear and so on," she said.

"I get it too, we've all been inconvenienced, it takes a little planning," she added.

Leaving your children in the car in general is not a crime, but not supervising children properly is a violation of child protection department standards of care.

The state statute states that the following scenarios, both at home or elsewhere, including the car, would be considered a lack of supervision and a violation of the state's supervision guidelines:

  • Children age 7 and under who are left alone for any period of time.
  • Children 8 - 10 who are left alone for more than 3 hours
  • Children 11 - 13 who are left alone for more than 12 hours
  • Children 14 - 15 who are left alone for more than 24 hours
  • Children 16-17 may be left alone for over 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to respond to an emergency.

While it may not be a crime to leave your kids in the car unattended, it is reportable. Meaning, if you leave your kids in the car even for just a minute, someone can call the police and report you. When law enforcement arrives they will most likely discuss the state statute with you and then send your information over to child protection. Child protection then opens a file and possible investigation due to lack of appropriate supervision.

What do you think? Is this an issue around St. Michael-Albertville? How do you feel about leaving the kids in the car for just a minute here or there?

JK January 09, 2013 at 05:43 PM
I have older children that I will leave in the car when running in and out of gas stations, but they are 8 and 11 years old, and they know how to lock the doors behind me. At that, I won't leave the 8 year old by himself, only with the older sibling. I think leaving a toddler/baby unattended in a vehicle for any amount of time is unacceptable.
Mel January 09, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Leaving your kids in the car is FINE! When they are young, they are NOT going to get out of a 5-point carseat. They are safer in the car than walking across a gas station parking lot. I had 3 kids under the age of three and there was no way possible I would drag all three of them in to a gas station to pay for gas. Common sense prevails!! Less than a few minutes -- not too hot/cold -- car is visible -- car is locked. I did it many, many times and everyone is fine.
Willow January 09, 2013 at 07:51 PM
For me, there are two issues here. What *I* am comfortable with and what I think might make other people uncomfortable. *I* may feel perfectly comfortable leaving my 8yo, 6yo, and 4yo alone in the car while I run into the library to pick up my book that's on hold HOWEVER, I am scared to pieces that a stranger might take issue and report that. I always err on the side of caution. If my 15yo is along, I feel more comfortable running in somewhere and have her sit in the front so others can see there is a young adult in the car.
Willow January 09, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Sadly, I don't think that common sense does prevail in many cases. I'm with you - parents should be allowed to use their brains and sense that God has given them. There are too many people out there, though, quick to make a phone call without using THEIR brains. A call that can cause a lot of unfair problems and stress for a loving parent.
Trish January 10, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Every gas station has "pay at the pump" options. There is no reason to go inside the gas station or leave young kids unsupervised. That's how I did it when my kids were young. I didn't need candy, overpriced milk, smokes, donuts, etc.


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