Even in today’s world, some people still leave there keys in their car. In Tennessee, it’s illegal to park and exit your vehicle with the car still running:
55-8-162. No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.
But this is rarely enforced and often people will stop their car, run into a store, and run back out all without turning off their engine. This defies common sense, and it can let your insurance company off the hook if your car is broken into or stolen. Insurance policies include a laundry list of things that would void coverage, and leaving your car running may void your coverage (but not always, review your policy and talk to an attorney if your insurance company denies your coverage for any reason!).
In 2007, Tennessee passed the “Tennessee Unattended Children in Motor Vehicle Safety Act.” If a child younger than seven years old is left unsupervised in the vehicle, the driver is guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable by a hefty fine. There have been many sad stories over the years of children dying from heat exhaustion from being left in vehicles – almost always because the parents acted negligently and left the child in a hot vehicle. If you see a child left in a parked vehicle in a parking lot – especially on a hot summer day – you should call the police.
The moral of this post is this: Use common sense. Leaving your car running while in a store, or even just leaving your keys in plain sight, can make you liable if someone steals the vehicle. And if you have a child, for god’s sake, don’t leave that child in the vehicle unattended!