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Take the kids out of the car

A viral video posted on Facebook by Northern Kentucky resident Mark Hermann is causing quite a stir amongst some parents and now the police. Hermann was at the Harbor Freight hardware store in Florence, Kentucky, when he noticed a young boy secured in his child-safety seat in the back of a truck with the keys in the ignition, windows down, and the engine running. When asked where his parents were, the boy proceeded to tell Hermann that “his mom was at work and his dad ran into the store.” Hermann told ABC affiliate WCPO-TV he contemplated calling the police but instead took out his phone and began video recording. When the boy’s father returned to the truck, Hermann confronted him for leaving his child in potential danger, all the while the camera captured everything. Florence police have now charged 38-year-old Nathaniel Galloway with endangering the welfare of a minor. He was also arrested on an unrelated warrant.

While we all know that leaving a child in an unattended car on a hot summer day can lead to tragedy, why is there such a fuss over leaving a kid unattended for a few minutes? After all, the father did secure his son in a child-safety seat, and he left the windows down. He also said that he was watching him from the store the entire time.

Are we getting carried away and being extremely nit-picky? Yes, but probably for good reason. There is some danger in leaving children unattended in a vehicle, even if it is not extremely hot outside. Heat-related illnesses can occur quickly, and it’s unknown what specific temperature sets off injury. A vehicle can warm up within minutes, even with the windows down. A child technically could unbuckle himself from his child-safety seat and climb out of the vehicle or accidentally put it into gear. Is it likely? No. Is it possible? Yes.

I realize it’s cumbersome to get a small child out of a child-safety seat for only a brief errand, and he would probably rather watch a TV in the back seat while you go into the not-so-kid-friendly store. But inconvenience or not, not everyone can be trusted. You wouldn’t leave your iPad or a pile of cash in an unlocked vehicle in plain sight with the windows down for a potential thief to see, so why would you leave your small child? Let’s not forget that there are some crazy people who will do some crazy things (like steal your car, abduct your kid, or even worse). Public parking lots should not to be considered a “safe place.” Is this being a little too paranoid? Maybe, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

We can’t altogether stop using common sense. Children are unlikely to die from heat exhaustion, be kidnapped, or accidentally engage a vehicle while alone in a vehicle, but it’s not worth the heartache if somehow the unthinkable happened. Take the kids out of the car, even if only for a few minutes.

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About Dr. Justin Morgan, Bundoo Pediatrician

Justin Morgan, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician who practices general pediatrics in Louisville, Kentucky. He cares for children of all ages.

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