Ask a Trooper: Can I Leave My Child Unattended in the Car, Even For Just a Minute?

Washington State Patrol District 1 spokesman and recruiter Guy Gill answers your questions about the rules of the road.

Q: Can I leave my child unattended in the car while I return a shopping cart or drop something off inside? It'll only take a minute.

A: It is unlawful for any person, while operating or in charge of a vehicle, to leave a minor child or children under 16 years old unattended in the vehicle. It is also illegal to park or willfully allow your vehicle to stand on a public highway or in a public place with its motor running, with a minor under 16 unattended in the vehicle.

Any person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon a second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this section, the department shall revoke the operator's license of such person.

My advice… Don’t do it!  You just never know who you could be parked next to or around and it’s not even worth taking a chance. 

Trooper Guy Gill is the Washington State Patrol recruiter and spokesman for District 1, covering Pierce and Thurston counties. Follow him at @wspd1pio on Twitter. 

What have you always wanted to ask a state patrol officer? Tell us in the comments. 

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Michael Tammy Marciniak July 15, 2013 at 04:16 PM
No who asked these questions!!!!!!!!!!
Michael Tammy Marciniak July 15, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Use common sense people.
pkeith1 July 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM
A totally different topic: traffic laws as it relates to the rules of turning: The Drivers Guide; Turning section under General rules states that you are required to turn into the nearest lane whether making a right or left turn yet, consistently, drivers seem to turn into any lane they'd like. When there are multiple lanes they often choose the farthest lane. This behavior seems consistent whether drivers are turning right onto the new roadway, or left from a light. Although it is dangerous to everyone else drivers seem to be unaware and often belligerent about choosing whichever lane they'd like. Is there actually a law that requires turning into the nearest lane and if so why is it not enforced? One local police officer told me that they let things like this slide when they are the "local custom" in the jurisdiction??? Can you help? What is the law?
Kelly Semmler-Cooper February 15, 2014 at 03:42 AM
I have to say I was appalled to find out a mother who has an infant (my guess about 4-6 months) could walk into a Papa Murphy's with her back to the window the entire time and leave said child in car. I came to the spot next to this car saw the infant and called 911.. all the while looking into the store and there were at least 5 people that came out and did not claim the car or child! The woman came out and I asked if she was crazy and she told me she wasn't going to discus this with me and I told her she can talk to the cops. She argued and said she would not stay and to that I told her fine the 911 operator had her Lic plate # and description of the car! When the cops arrived I was told that because the car was in the line of sight and not running it was not an issue. I was also told they would review the persons info to make sure there were not prior reports.... as I sais even though the store had a glass front to it.. and I was glaring inside at everyone.... SHE NEVER TURNED AROUND!!! SHE NEVER CHECKED ON HER CHILD and it was approx 10-15 minutes that I was standing there.... I just believe this is not safe and so not worth he risk... maybe as a parent you would feel differently ... I think what the worse part was there was no guilt there was no after thought she just stared at me with an icy cold stare ... but I can guarantee in this busy parking lot off a busy highway if something were to happen it would have been a different story!


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