Taking Action: Kids Left in Car Alone

Since becoming a parent this has been a topic that I worry about all the time: leaving kids in the car when it’s hot outside. Utah summers can be a real scorcher, but being in a car as a child with the windows up, no air and that heat beating down on you, anything can happen in an instant.

I have said before, “If I ever see another kid left in a car and the parents are gone I am going to do something about it.” Well, I was recently faced with this situation again and I am still upset with myself for not taking action. Let me share with you what happened:

I went to the local grocery store with my son to grab a few groceries. It was still rather early in the day (around 9 am) and the weather was pretty cool (about 76 degrees). We drove to the store and I took him in with me so we could quickly grab the things we were needing.

Now as a parent I get it. It is so easy to think to yourself, “I am just running in to grab some milk and that’s it,” but I can’t tell you how many times I have thought those same things and ended up bringing the entire candy isle with me (along with 3 half gallons of ice cream). We are in a hurry and taking our kids out of the car seat, carrying them around, buckling them in the cart if needs be takes up more time than we want to use. I honestly understand, but when you hear the stories of the kids dying in a car from the heat you can’t help but think that you don’t want that to ever happen to your own child, let alone anyone else.

We came out of the store and as I was putting my son back in his carseat I heard a child screaming. Honestly I have a tendency to ignore that now that I have been there with my own son, but I had to see where it was coming from.

I looked up and saw a mother with her son that was throwing a tantrum; screaming at the top of his lungs. She came out and put her son in the car, then went back into the grocery store alone.

Pause! Again, I get it. You have a screaming kid in public. You’re embarrassed and hate having everyone look at you while you’re in the store because you’re child won’t stop screaming. So of course, why not take them out to the car and put them in there while you run in to grab a couple things real quick? People I have been there and many times I have left the place that took me almost an hour to get to after all the fighting, but I have never left my child in the car so I could run in real quick.

The mom walked in and I just stood there for a moment to see what would happen. I was so confused and didn’t know what I should do. On the one hand the mother had just barely left him and it was pretty cool outside. On the other hand though, who knows how long she could be in there for. Maybe she had enough and felt like this was her break from the screaming. I didn’t know.

I thought about calling 911, but was this an emergency situation? I mean, kind of, but I didn’t know. Was it any of my business? As a parent I think so, and as a human being I think we have a tendency to look out for those that can’t help themselves. What do I do?

Well, I got in my car and drove away and I am still upset with myself over this, but how many people do that? We see a child in a car and we do nothing because we think, “Oh, I’m sure the parents will be right back” or “I was left in the car as a child and nothing happened to me.”

I just felt bad because I honestly didn’t know what to do. I took it to Facebook and everyone said, “Break the window!” I would love to do that just to add to the times I can say I’ve broken out a car window, but then I think if I would get in trouble. Luckily in the state of Utah, The Good Samaritan Act states that “a person who renders emergency care at or near the scene of, or during an emergency, gratuitously or in good faith, is not liable for any civil damages or penalties as a result of any act or omission by the person rendering the emergency care, unless the person is grossly negligent or caused the emergency.”

Recently, there was an article stating that after you have tried to find the parents, you call 911 immediately, explain the situation and follow any instructions you’re given. You may be asked to evaluate the child’s condition. You report what you can see; tap on the window to see if the youngster is responsive or not.


You will likely try to visually identify symptoms of heat exhaustion or worse. Heat stroke is more serious — and you may be dealing with a potentially fatal situation.

Then if no one has gotten there in a timely manner you break a window that isn’t close to the child so that the glass won’t shatter down on them keeping them free from harm or injury.

Here the thing, I am glad that I now know what to do in this situation. I will no longer think twice about what to do. And when I see any parent walking away with their kid in the car I will call them out on it. I don’t know what happened to that kid (I am sure he’s fine since the news didn’t say anything about it), but I don’t ever want to have these lingering thoughts ever again.

May we all watch out for these helpless kids and take action to keeping kids safe and parents educated on who to call and what to do when you are actually witnessing this type of situation.