Can You Leave a Child Alone in a Car in Texas?

If you’re in your 30s or 40s, you probably have memories of a very different time. When you were a child, you probably played outside (without a cellphone of course) until the street lights came on. You may have road your bicycle for miles and your parents would have no way to reach you until you come back.

You were probably even left in your parents’ car alone from time to time as your mother or father would run into a store. But what about today? Can you leave your own child alone in the car nowadays or is that no longer acceptable? After all, times have changed.

No Leaving Children Alone in Cars

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s and prior, leaving children alone in cars was common practice. In fact, people would even let their kids ride in the back of trucks way back then. But today, you cannot leave children alone in cars for any period of time. Why? Mainly because too many children have gotten injured and killed when left unsupervised in cars.

If a child is trapped inside a car, especially on a hot day, in a matter of minutes they can experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can lead to permanent disabilities or even death. Heatstroke or “hyperthermia” can lead to shock, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. It can cause damage to the liver, brain, and kidneys, and it can lead to a heart attack.

Leaving a child unattended in a car is actually illegal under Section 22.10 of the Texas Penal Code, Leaving a Child in a Vehicle. A person violates Sec. 22.10 if they leave a child under the age of seven in a vehicle that is not attended by someone in the vehicle who is 14 years-of-age or older. The offense is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas.

If a person leaves a child unattended in a car and the child is not adequately supervised, the state considers it “neglectful supervision,” and the individual can be investigated by Child Protective Services, even if it’s the child’s own parent or relative.

“Neglectful supervision accounts for more than half all confirmed abuse or neglect in Texas. Neglectful supervision accounted for 75 percent of all confirmed child victims of abuse or neglect in 2011,” according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

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