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Florida bill would make it illegal to leave a young child alone in a car

By Job Kent | Staff Writer
On January 16, 2018

A bill that has been presented in the Florida Senate would make it unlawful to leave a child in a car unsupervised alone for any measure of time.

As of now, it is legal to leave a kid in a vehicle unattended for over 15 minutes in Florida. Nonetheless, a support group known as Safe Kids says there's nothing more needed than 10 minutes for a car to warm up 19 degrees, even with the windows split.

One Florida deputy is planning to save more lives by standing in favor of this bill. Jackson Etienne is a father of one and emphasized his support of this bill.

“I wouldn't trust my little girl alone for 15 minutes. She'd take off and go alone search for me and my wife after about five minutes,” Etienne said. “Working for the Orlando Police Department, I’ve seen this accident numerous times.

He continued, “The filing of this bill is only the first step to saving a child’s life.”

As indicated by the safety organization Kids and Cars, an average of 37 children per year die from being left in hot cars. These include occurrences such as where a child has been overlooked in a car, accidentally secures themselves in an car or trunk, or, in few cases, when a kid has been purposefully left in a car. These include cases where a child has been forgotten in a car, accidentally locked in a car or trunk, or, in a small number of cases, when a child has been intentionally left in a car.

On the other hand, this bill could be a hassle for some single mothers who struggle to find a sitter. Chelsea Costin admits that she has indeed left her daughter alone in the car before.

“I can’t lie, I have left my child in the car for no more than two minutes. Only because I had to run inside a convenient store to buy some baby wipes.”

If this bill passes, it will cause mothers to bring their child with them everywhere when they’re out. No matter how the child’s feeling at the moment.

“No one should even be leaving their child in a vehicle for 10 minutes, but some mother’s circumstances differ from others. What if my child is sleeping, now I have to wake her up and fight to put her back to sleep,” said Costin.

She continued, “Some people don’t understand how much time actually goes in to just making sure a car seat is fully secured with a child being in it.”

State Bill 92, proposed by Senator Lauren Book and Senator Linda Stewart, is advancing through Florida Senate committes. On the off chance that the law were to pass, parents as well as guardians could be charged with a second degree misdemeanor for leaving kids in a car unattended for any measure of time.

If an officer can't locate the child's parents in the wake of removing him or her from the car, dire consequences for the child could ensue, leaving the child in the hands of the Department of Children and Families.

There have also been a few incidents where a thief has stolen a vehicle while a child was still in the car. It is for reasons like this that the lawmakers in Tallahassee are pushing so hard to change the current rules for kids in cars under the age of six.

NoHeatStroke.org, a data site run by a meteorology and litigation expert, has been collecting data on these incidents since 1998. Since then, the highest number of deaths per year was in 2010, with 49 deaths. 2015 had the lowest rate of incidents, with 24.

In October 2017, a 17-year old teen stole a car while a toddler was inside in Margate, FL. In November 2017,  a child was in a vehicle when it was stolen from near an Orange County day care. 

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