Is it illegal to leave your child alone in the car while you’re at a petrol station?

Is it illegal to leave your child alone in the car while you're at a petrol station?
Is it illegal to leave your child alone in the car while you're at a petrol station?

There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about leaving your kids in the car when you’re at the petrol station.

Many parents have just nipped in to the shop to pay for their petrol at the counter and then quickly got back to the car.

Is it illegal to leave your child alone in the car while you're at a petrol station?

Is it illegal to leave your child alone in the car while you're at a petrol station?

But, a post on Mumsnet has split opinion among parents about whether this is an acceptable, or even legal thing to do.

The mum said that she would only leave her 20-month-old child in the car if she was paying at the pump but her husband has left her to pay in store.

She said: “I’m horrified that he’s left her and have said I really don’t want him to do that again, he thinks I am ridiculous and ‘it’s only for two minutes’.”

Unsurprisingly, this sparked a huge debate on the forum with parents on both sides of the argument wading in.

One mum wrote: “I do it. My child is not even nearly able to undo her straps and I think it’s safer than trying to get her across the forecourt to the shop.”

Another wrote: “Of course, a petrol station forecourt is far more dangerous with a wriggling toddler trying to escape than leaving them in the car.

“I lock it obviously, although I always think if anyone kidnapped them they would probably bring them back fairly quickly.”

However, another disagreed writing: “Shouldn’t do it really. What if the car was stolen or another car hit the vehicle? Has happened in the past.”

One parent wrote: “I did use to do that when mine were that age but only when they were actually sleeping. If they were awake they came with me.”

Although opinion is split on the subject, is there any law that says what you must do?

According to gov.uk, the law doesn’t say when you can leave a child on their own.

However, it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.

Instead parents should ‘use their judgement’ on how mature their child is before leaving them alone, e.g at home or in the car.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says:

- children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time

- children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight

- babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone