DEAR ABBY: In a recent column, your readers were reminded to never leave their dogs and other pets inside cars during the warm summer months. In that vein, I would like to bring to your attention a more common practice than some would think: children left in the car by well-meaning parents during a hectic day of running errands or driving the kids to various activities.
Since 1998, the New Jersey Department of Human Services has promoted the "Not Even for a Minute" campaign, which warns against the dangers of leaving children in a car alone. Window decals and posters distributed through day-care centers, schools, police stations, retailers, the AAA and new car dealers remind parents not to leave their children in cars, "Not Even for a Minute."
Children's health experts warn that on a breezy day with the outside temperature only in the low 70s, a closed automobile can heat up to 125 degrees within 15 minutes. Even with the windows cracked, a small child can dehydrate within minutes. The result can be deadly, as the family of a 13-month-old baby in New Jersey recently learned.
Whatever the season, leaving children alone in cars is risky. In less than a minute, a child can climb out of a car seat and shift the car into gear. And it takes only a minute for someone to break into a vehicle and abduct a child.
It's easy to underestimate the time a child will be left alone in an automobile. We've all had the experience of finding ourselves standing in the unexpected line or of running into someone we know, having a conversation and losing track of time.
Abby, please urge your readers to make themselves a promise: When you walk away from your car, take your child, too. It takes only a minute. -- MICHELE K. GUHL, COMMISSIONER, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
DEAR MICHELE: Thank you for an important letter. There is nothing more precious than a child's life. I hope all parents heed your warning -- and other states initiate similar campaigns.