child endangerment

There is nothing more precious to a parent than his or her child, and it is a parent’s primary responsibility to ensure their safety and well being. When a parent fails to do so through negligence or lack of forethought or care, tragedy can often follow.

One such example of child endangerment is one we see far too often in Florida — leaving a child in a hot car. At one time, leaving a child unattended in a car while food shopping or stopping at the post office was not a rare occurrence but is now largely seen as an act of neglect.

Regardless of past standards, it has come to light just how dangerous and reckless it is to leave a child unattended in a hot vehicle for any amount of time. Let us break down these dangers to illustrate just why you should never leave your child in your car, even if it is just for a few minutes.

The Dangers of a Leaving a Child Unattended in a Hot Car

  • Green Houses on Wheels: Though the temperature outside of the vehicle may feel manageable, a car acts as a greenhouse, growing hotter by the second as the sun’s rays enter through the windows. A car’s temperature can rise by almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.
  • Kids Heat Faster: Unlike fully grown adults, children have a limited ability to cool themselves and generally run warmer relative to their size. This makes children far more susceptible to overheating and falling victim to heat stroke.
  • Unsecured: Some parents try to keep their child safe by keeping the air conditioning on while they step into the grocery store or pick up their dry cleaning. However, though doing so ensures that heat is no longer an issue, it opens you up to another list of potential threats. Children may be able to get out of seat belt restraints, lock or unlock doors, and even pop the transmission into neutral or drive. Also, an open, idling car is a prime target for an easy auto theft.

From extreme heat paired with a child’s limited ability to regulate body temperature to the number of ways leaving your car running can be extremely dangerous, leaving your child in a car for just a few minutes can have tragic results.

But sometimes, parents and caregivers can accidentally leave a child unattended in a car. Though you may not understand how such a mistake can happen, time has proven that it is not a rare occurrence. If you are driving with children, especially those strapped into a car seat behind the driver’s seat, leave a reminder in the front seat (the child’s toy, for example) or simply put something you will have to get before leaving the vehicle (house keys, briefcase, etc.) in order to lessen the chances that such a tragedy strikes.

Now that we have explained why leaving a child in a car for any amount of time is dangerous, what does the law have to say about the matter? Despite the risks of this obvious child endangerment, it is legal in Florida for a child under the age of six to be left unsupervised inside a vehicle for up to 15 minutes. This includes if the vehicle is shut off.

Though lawmakers are pushing to close this dangerous loophole, as it stands, it is up to parents and those who see children in danger to keep our kids safe. If you see a child in distress while locked in an unoccupied vehicle, call the police and allow them to handle the situation safely. Together, we can help curb reckless child endangerment by keeping kids out of hot, unoccupied cars.