Q&A: Can you leave baby in the car and pay for petrol?

Posted in Car Travel, Out & About FAQs and tagged .

Question & Answer

To leave or not to leave, that is the question. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting, where unfortunately everyone suddenly has an opinion or parenting judgement on everything you do – even filling your car up with fuel!

Today we’re navigating the grey area of whether it is ok to leave your baby or child in the car while you pay for your petrol.

What’s the big deal?

We’ve all been there – your little one has just fallen fast asleep, but the fuel light on your car has just woken up. You pull into the nearest petrol station, fill up at the petrol pump, and then begin the inner argument with yourself. The shop is right there, I can see the car the whole time, the car is locked and in the shade. Surely, it’s ok for me to duck in and out to pay without disturbing bub. Right?!?!

Well, not necessarily.

What does the law say?

Each state words its laws around child safety and supervision slightly differently. The overall answer, however, is that you should NOT leave your child in the car under any circumstances, even at the petrol station. It is a criminal offence that you can be prosecuted for, with penalties varying state by state.

Legal firm Slater and Gordon have written a fairly comprehensive article covering each different state’s legislation. It’s probably also worthwhile mentioning that they also comment that most cases that do come before the courts are generally not followed up with any serious penalties. That is not to say that it’s necessarily right to leave your child but that, for the most part, courts understand that there are extenuating circumstances from time to time. That is of course assuming that no harm came to the child, and the parent or guardian clearly had their best interests at heart.

So should I or shouldn’t I?

As we said, everyone has an opinion on all things parenting. No doubt, as evidenced in a poll conducted by ABC News on the issue, you will have friends and family who stand on both sides of the debate.

We always suggest erring on the side of caution. Your best solution would be to avoid being in the situation where you need to buy petrol when your baby is in the car. Instead, maybe you or your partner could pop out and fill up at night once bub is in bed. Or, you could make sure you fill your car at a time when your children aren’t in the car, like on your way to or from work.

It’s one more thing to plan into your already busy week, but it’s probably easier than taking an unhappy child (or two) into a busy service station, and it’s definitely easier than ending up in trouble with the police!

Just had a baby?

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