Should it be legal to break into cars with unattended kids inside?


Whitney Barthel

posted in Mom Stories

This summer seems to be laden with hot-car tragedies. I don’t know if the number of deaths due to children left in cars is worse this summer, or if my ears are just more sensitive to this issue now that I have babies of my own. Either way, the public is eager to get involved to help prevent future deaths due to children being left in hot cars.

From specially made safety seats to a few simple tips offered by BabyCenter’s own Laura Larsen, everyone is eager to find ways to prevent these horrible incidents – even our state governments. The state of Tennessee recently took a vote on whether or not it should be legal to break into a car if there was a baby inside. They decided it should. If a person has a “good faith belief” that the child is in serious danger then good samaritans are protected by law if they find themselves smashing the windows on a minivan parked at the local Target.

At first I thought this was a fantastic idea. Then as I kept reading the article I started thinking a little bit differently. Apparently around 86 percent of hot-car deaths are a result from parents completely forgetting their child is in the car, or the result of a child climbing in the car themselves and not being able get out on their own. Most of these instances don’t even happen in public parking lots or on street sides.

Some moms are a bit annoyed at this new law. They fear that some hyper-sensitive people will feel they have the right to break into their cars while their children patiently wait for them to run a ten-second errand with the air conditioning on.

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I do this on occasion. The town I grew up in is very, very small. I have left the boys with the AC on and the doors locked to quickly run into places like the post office, and I feel like that is okay. I feel like them sleeping comfortably for the whole 3 minutes it takes me to drop off a package or run into the gas station is a much better alternative than unloading a sleepy 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 6-month-old and trying to corral them once they are out of the car.

That being said—I would be more than upset if I came outside just in time to witness someone smashing the windows on my station wagon while my kids are inside. Laws like this are a double edged sword. Do we need some sort of regulation to prevent these horrible tragedies? Probably. Is this the answer? I am not so sure.


How do you feel about Tennessee’s new law? Do you ever leave your kids in the car to run errands?

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