Free-Range Kids

Kid Was Too Hot in a Cold Car—Quick, Call the Cops

Rhode Island state senator proposes unnecessary punishments for imperfect parents.



Remember: Any law drawn up in haste on the heels of a tragedy, and/or following a breathless news report, and/or named for a child, and/or containing the word "angel" in its title will probably be a bad law. It will not be based on any kind of study or rational examination of a problem—or even based on a real problem at all. It will be based on emotion, fury, sadness, and a heaping helping of political puffery.

In the case we are looking at today, the trigger was the news report last week of a Rhode Island mom who left her baby in a "frigid car." Never mind the fact it was for so short a time that the baby was actually sweating, rather than freezing. And never mind we're talking about a 10-minute car-wait. The authorities still took the tot to the hospital for an evaluation.

In the wake of that news story, Rhode Island state Sen. Lou Raptakis proposed a law that would fine parents $1,000 and have them lose their drivers' licenses for three years—penalties drawn out of a hat, it seems to me—if they leave their kids under age 7 in the car (an age that seems drawn out of a hat, too).

This proposed legislation pays no heed to the fact that more children die in parking lots than in parked cars. Nor does it make room for circumstance, or parental judgment. Is it really better to drag triplet toddlers across a dark, icy parking lot to get the cough medicine? Is it really necessary to make a six-year-old go in with mom to pick up the pizza? Is it really a good idea to turn Rhode Island citizens into busybodies ready to report any imperfect parent to the police?

Oh, how we love to pound and pummel parents. Oh, how we love that for the children!" high. And oh, how we love to legislate the minutiae of daily life, as if micromanaging parents is the job we elected huffing, puffing state senators to do.

This piece originally ran under Robby Soave's byline. That was an error. Lenore Skenazy is the author of the piece.