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Good Question: Is It Ever OK To Leave Kids In Cars?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new survey from Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, D.C. reveals that 14 percent of parents say they’ve left their children alone in a car.

For parents of children under three years old, that percentage jumps to 23 percent. The study also found fathers are three times more likely (23 percent) than mothers (8 percent) to leave kids in cars.

Minneapolis mother Clarice Martinjoy says she never leaves her kids alone in the car, even though it takes plenty of effort to get kids out of cars.

“Too much could happen in one split second,” Martinjoy said. “It’s worth the effort for their lives so that nothing would happen to them.”

Blaine mother Nubia Fernandez she rarely leaves her children alone, but when she does, she keeps it short.

“I make sure … it’s not too hot outside and it’s not too cold,” Fernandez said. “I make sure I park somewhere where I can see what’s going on in the car.”

According to children’s safety group KidsandCars.org, 19 states have laws against leaving a child unattended in a car. Of those 19, 16 define age limits between 6 and 12 years old. Three states specify time limits between five and 15 minutes.

Minnesota does not have a law regarding children in cars, but Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder says it comes down to a child-endangerment issue at the discretion of the officer.

“If the officer feels the child is in danger, he can take the child and put them in protective custody,” Elder said.

Parenting coach Tina Feigal feels it’s never safe to leave a child unattended in a car. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 44 children died of heatstroke in cars in the U.S. in 2013.

“I really understand people think I’m just going to run in for two seconds and I’m just going to get this one thing and it’s only going to be a little bit and I don’t want to get this child cold or wet,” Feigal said. “But, someone could come and drive that car, someone could hit that car or just the whole idea of being left in a car could be emotionally hard on a little child, like ‘Where did Mommy or Daddy go?’”

Feigal doesn’t have a specific age cutoff, but recommends it be a child old enough to fend for themselves and get their parents were something to happen.

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