As of now twelve states have laws that specifically prohibit parents or guardians from leaving children alone in cars. Some of the states make it a traffic violation that includes a ticket or fine and other states make the offense a misdemeanor with a possible prison sentence. All states have laws that allow authorities to charge parents with child neglect and endangerment if a child dies because he/she was left unattended in a car.
In Florida, the child-in-car law was just recently amended to make it a second-degree misdemeanor to leave a child under the age of 6 alone in a vehicle for more than fifteen minutes or at all if the car is still running. The new rules went into effect on July 1, 2007 and if a parent or guardian is prosecuted they could face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.
An advocacy group called Kids and Cars had been trying to toughen legislation on this issue.
“We’re trying to get people to realize it is just as dangerous to leave a child alone in a vehicle as it is to leave him near a body of water,” said Kids and Cars founder and president Janette Fennell. “Just in seconds, something can happen.”
Fennel said that there are around 30 to 40 cases of hyperthermia deaths, which is death from unusually high body temperatures, of children left in vehicles every year. These rates have been increasing since the 1990s. Many children die from strangulation by power windows or by crashes caused by knocking the car into gear. Abduction is always a danger of leaving a child alone.
Two South Carolina toddlers were found dead after they overheated and died in their mother’s car on Monday, July 30. This is just one tragic example of why harsher consequences need to be inflicted on parents or guardians who leave their children in danger in a car by themselves.