There is a 2009 article that says that Europe has no statutory law criminalizing leaving a child of a certain age unattended in a vehicle. That, however, is not to say that people DO it more often than the United States.
Here is part of the article with a color coded map of states in America, with the age limit for leaving a child unattended and the penalty. Unfortunately, the legend is in French, but the text in the article helps you synch it up a little:
1. Europe and Abroad
According to the European Child Safety Alliance survey, in Europe there are no specific legal provisions framing the act of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle. However, in most States, penal law does make adults liable for negligence, surveillance default or manslaughter.
Since 1998 in the United States, 49 criminal proceedings have been initiated against adults considered as responsible for the death of a child left unattended in a motor vehicle. In fewer than 10% of the cases, alcohol, drugs (7%), or proven ill-treatment was the accident cause. In the court cases, 59% of the women against 47% of the men were sentenced to prison time. Most of the time, manslaughter or lax supervision were the charges. Recent trials ended with acquittals or probation for the adults due to a greater awareness of the ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ and the action of associations of parents having lost their child in these circumstances.
Still, there is no federal law on the risk. However, fourteen states have passed legislation with criminal sentences for anyone who leaves an unsupervised child in a motor vehicle. In sixteen other states, Bills on these matters have been filed. The states are scattered throughout the land, and understandably, especially in states with the highest accident rates.
Table 5: Breakdown of US states with legislation penalising
the leaving of a child unattended in a motor vehicle (2006)
In the states that have enacted legislation, the minimum age for leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle varies, and the sentences are more or less severe. Children over twelve are sometimes considered as ‘adult’ companions.
Table no. 6: Sentencing in different states in the United States
Age of the Child
$2,000 during the day
$10,000 at night
Under 6 (for 15 minutes)
$100 to $500 depending on the circumstances
Under 7 (for 10 minutes)
2 to 10 years in case of death
$1,000 to $10,000
$500 to $10,000
6 months to 2 years
Up to 30 days
Up to 90 days
$1,000 when the driver leaves to buy alcohol
Up to 90 days when the driver leaves to buy alcohol