Here’s Why You Don’t Leave Ignition On When You Leave Your Kids In The Car

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So a California Mom might face charges after a harrowing incident yesterday involving her one-month-old baby and a stolen car. Maribel Corona left her baby inside a 1991 Infinity with tinted windows outside St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church as she ran inside to get food at the food bank there.

But the part that’s really crazy is that she left the child in the car with the keys in it. And with the ignition running. That, my friends, is just crazy. Her car had tinted windows so when some jerk thief came to steal it, he didn’t notice the baby, presumably. He drove off and then abandoned the car in a remote area later. A hiker — thank God — came along and heard a tiny crying baby and she stayed with the baby until California Highway Patrol came. Everyone was reunited and we have a happy ending.

Now, I had heard horror stories about children being left in cars. Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten won a Pulitzer Prize last year for his “Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?” His article dealt with people who had just full on forgotten their children in their cars. More specifically, he looked at “good” parents who forgot their child in a car. Turns out that there are a surprisingly high number of people who fall victim to this and they’re not drunks in bars. They’re incredibly busy people who, more often than not, had a slight change to their plans. So let’s say that normally the child is dropped off at one day care but on this day they’re supposed to be dropped off somewhere else. The child falls asleep in the car. The parent is caught up in thoughts and soon gets into the habit of their normal commute. They arrive at work and only realize hours later that they never dropped the child off. That kind of thing.

For many years, I never left my children in the car for even a moment. But at some point this past winter, we were experiencing a horrific storm. My youngest was asleep and my oldest was not. I had to pick up some medicine and I was parked directly across the street from the pharmacy. There were about 7 emergency vehicles there (this being Capitol Hill in DC which is in a constant police state these days). I had this epiphany that it would be safer to leave my children in the car for two minutes than wake them up and try to drag them across a busy intersection in a snow storm. I went in, picked up the meds, came back out and everything was fine.

It was liberating. I rarely use my car, but I realized that this was a possibility. I could run into the Post Office to drop off a letter while the kids stayed in the car parked outside.

But as much as I hate the extremism of a zero tolerance policy for leaving a child in the car, this California mom is making me a bit angry. I get how difficult it is to unload a baby out of the car, much less carry food and a baby back to the car. But you don’t leave a 1-month old in the car. You bring her in and ask for some help to get stuff back out to your car. It’s a church. A church running a food bank, for crying out loud. Guess what: they’ll help you. Sure, you wanted the air conditioning on or whatever. But still, this is not an OK situation.

I’m glad everything worked out, but this woman is darn lucky her baby is alive.