Leaving Children or Keys in a Car

November 8, 2003

Two-year old Deniro Rhumble was asleep in the back seat of his mother's car. The car was stolen, carjacked by a black man, after Deniro's mother, Judith Alveranga, left him behind with the engine running to order food at a restaurant in Queens, NY. The child was later found safe and sleeping in his carseat, in Long Island, which is not far from Queens.

Having raised 3 children, and driven all of my life, I have always lived by two rules.

Number 1: You NEVER leaves keys in the car when you get out, children or no children, and especially if children are in the car. How many children have slid behind the wheel, put the car into Drive or Reverse and run over parents or other people, smashed into cars, slid down hills or driveways, as the car lunged forward or backward.

Carjacking has always been part of the equation, where someone jumps into an idling vehicle. What if the car doors locked automatically and you are outside the car with a young child trapped in a carseat? Some children will get out of a car seat, push the doors locks down and get trapped as they cannot figure out how to open them.

Number 2: If you leave a child in the car for a minute or so, always remove the keys and leave a window open a little, then lock the car doors after you get out as children do get kidnapped when left alone if only for a few seconds, in an unlocked car. While away from the car, you must be constantly glancing over to check on the child.

I understand what a hassle it is to take a child in and out of a carseat, to run a quick errand, but you must always be prepared for the unexpected.

Another rule I always follow: Have two sets of car keys with you, in case you lock your keys in the car. I carry the second set in my bag, which I never leave in the car. After 42 years of driving, I have locked my keys in the car twice, both times when I was alone. On both occasions I was grateful to have the spare keys. We all get absentminded, preoccupied, and need back-up keys. How many times have you seen people with wire hangars trying to open a locked car?

Police have tools, the same ones car thieves use, that can usually open car doors in seconds.

People with expensive cars are often connected to the police or security systems that can unlock the car doors remotely.

In all, never ever leave your keys in the car when you walk away! Turn off the engine and take them with you. If someone comes out of nowhere with a gun, and wants your car, give it to them, unless you can defend yourself. It is only a car. It can be replaced in most cases, you can't.