Thursday, July 11, 2013

Advice to never leave kids unattended

Santa Cruz columnist Ramona Turner writes:
"Leaving a child unattended for even a minute can lead to heat stroke and even death," said Christopher J. Murphy, the agency's director. "It is imperative that everyone take steps to safeguard their children by remaining alert and ensuring that no child is left unsupervised."

In 2001, Kaitlyn's Law was enacted, making it illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle.

Here are some reminders for parents, guardians and childcare providers on keeping children safe when the weather warms up: ...

If you see a child left unattended in a car, immediately call 911.
No, this is crazy. Leaving a child in a car for a minute does not cause harm.

Santa Cruz rarely even gets hot. You probably think it is hot because it is a sunny California beach town. But the water is so cold that the locals refuse to swim in it. The surfers wear wetsuits. A couple of weeks ago we had a big heat wave, and the temperature topped out at about 85 degrees. Everyone was complaining as if global warming were causing the end of the world.

The main hazard to leaving your kid in a car for a minute is that some busybody will call 911 and trigger a stupid investigation. The cops will probably be smart enough to realize that your kid was not in any danger, but will have to take the complaint seriously because of the law and your disregard for common paranoid advice.

I post this just to try to help people stay out of trouble.

Update: A reader suggests that I consult the law, according to the DMV website. My point was more about how you could be hassled by busybodies, regardless of the law. I followed his suggestion, and consulted the website. The simplest explanation is this:
Unattended Children In Motor Vehicles

It is illegal to leave a child six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle.

The court may fine a violator and require him or her to attend a community education program. Also, DMV and court penalties for leaving an unattended child in a vehicle are more severe if the child is injured, requires emergency medical services, or dies.

Note: The child may be left under the supervision of a person 12 years of age or older.
This is misleading, as the reader pointed out, as it is not always illegal. Here is a better explanation:
Leaving Children or Pets Unattended in a Car

It is illegal to leave a six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle when:

There are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety. Example: Leaving a child in a closed car on a very hot day.

The vehicle's engine is running, the keys are in the ignition, or both. Children can start or move the car causing injuries and/or deaths to themselves or others. An opportunist may (and many have) seize the moment to jump in and drive your car away, child still strapped in.

Violators may be fined and required to attend a community education program. If the child is injured, requires emergency medical services, or dies, then the penalties become more severe.
Also remember that pets also deserve the same care and should not be left unattended in a vehicle on a hot day.

If you see an endangered child or pet, call 911 and stay by the vehicle.
Note that it recommends that busybodies call 911. Here is the actual California statute:
Prohibition Against Unattended Child in Vehicle

15620. (a) A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under either of the following circumstances:

(1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety.

(2) When the vehicle's engine is running or the vehicle's keys are in the ignition, or both.

(b) A violation of subdivision (a) is an infraction punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100), except that the court may reduce or waive the fine if the defendant establishes to the satisfaction of the court that he or she is economically disadvantaged and the court, instead, refers the defendant to a community education program that includes education on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles, and provides certification of completion of that program. Upon completion of that program, the defendant shall provide that certification to the court. The court may, at its discretion, require any defendant described in this section to attend an education program on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles.

(c) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and Section 192 of the Penal Code, or Section 273a of that code, or any other provision of law.

(d) (1) Subdivision (b) and Section 40000.1 do not apply if an unattended child is injured or medical services are rendered on that child because of a violation described in subdivision (a).

(2) Nothing in this subdivision precludes prosecution under any other provision of law.
So yes, it is legal to leave your sleeping baby in the car while you run into a 7-11, but it is probably not worth the risk that some jerk will call 911.


Anonymous said...

Whatever safety issues apply to a child apply equally to a dog. Folks, never leave your pet unattended in a car!

You and Ramona should've at least looked up the law on the DMV website. It only applies to a child less than six, unless supervised by a child at least twelve. It only applies when a) health and safety are endangered or b) keys are in the ignition. So if you run into the 7-11 for a quart of milk, you might still be able to beat the rap.

We need a federal law to never. I mean to never split an infinitive. Did you attend an accredited high school? Not in California, one hopes!

George said...

Thanks for the clarification. At your suggestion, I updated the post with the law.

To answer your question, no, I did not attend an accredited high school. However I did learn Latin, and I am not going to deliberately split an infinitive if I am translating Latin.

Anonymous said...

Pres. Eisenhower told a story of dressing down a plebe by saying, "I'll bet you were a barber before you joined the Army." And the plebe said, "I was a barber, sir." So Eisenhower made up his mind never again to ridicule (or as they used to say in Latin, to never again deliberately ridicule) honest work.

Now I feel guilty for outing you as a non-accredited high school graduate. Probably you were tutored by an au pair with a Ph.D. in French Literature. Or Vietnamese monks translating sutras into Latin.

George said...

Funny. Thanks.