Leaving Kids Alone in Cars–Is it Ever Okay?

Yesterday, an Edmonton mom was the fourth parent charged in six days for leaving children unattended in a vehicle. She left her kids, ages two and nine, alone in the car watching a video while she grocery shopped for 30 minutes.

This is the 20th charge this year in Edmonton, connected to children being left alone in vehicles. In July, a three-year-old girl died after she was found inside an SUV outside her home in Edmonton on a day where the temperature soared to 33 C.

Clearly, the dangers of leaving your kids in the car alone are very real. That said, is it ever okay to leave your kid in the car on their own? I admit, I’ve left my toddler in her car seat when I run in to the post office to collect the mail. It’s a one-minute task, but I still rush to do it, just in case.

I’ve also left her in the car in the garage when she’s fallen asleep, letting her grab a few more winks before I bring her in the house. I check on her every few minutes, but is this okay?

I remember being in the car with just my older sister when we were kids. We were maybe 9 and 10, and we’d be in the car alone because we didn’t want to go wherever our parents had taken us and chose to stay in the car instead.

I know that many would say there is no occasion that is okay to leave your child unattended in. But, the reality is, it happens.

I’m so thankful now that I’m a parent for the many “drive-through” options that exist. I used to think they were just for lazy people, but when my kid is conked out sleeping in the car, they are lifesavers. I mean, I can do my banking, get gas, and grab a bite–all without having to leave my car and wake her by taking her in and out of her car seat.

But sometimes, like when getting the mail, I do leave her for a minute. I think this is okay. I know many people in my small community, and my car is in full view the whole time.

What are your thoughts? Is it ever okay in your mind?

  • Rural mom

    I am totally on the same page as the author. When my oldest was a baby I’d sort my mail in the car with him as he slept.

  • Single mom

    I have also left my toddler in the car to run into a convenient store to pay for something, but only if my car is in sight the entire time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, but feel anxious because of the stigma. I wouldn’t do it on a super hot day, because I close all the windows and lock the car…. I would never do it to go get groceries or be gone for more than a couple of mins.

    I have also left my baby/toddler in the car sleeping if the weather was appropriate….but it was in by driveway where the car was beside the door to the house. I would also check on him regularily.

  • Mrs Tsuji

    I think it also depends on weather conditions… In Edmonton it can easily get colder than -20 and in the summer easily into high 20′s. If there are extreme temperatures I wouldn’t feel comfortable running in to do a quick errand. However if the weather is mild I have run into the post office to pick up the mail.