Florida bill would make it illegal to leave a young child alone in a car for any amount of time

Florida bill would make it illegal to leave a young child alone in a car for any amount of time
Posted at 1:32 AM, Jan 09, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. — A bill that has been introduced in the Florida Senate would make it illegal to leave a child in the car alone for any amount of time.

Currently, it is legal to leave a child in a car unattended for more than 15 minutes in Florida. However, the advocacy group Safe Kids says it takes just ten minutes for a car to heat up 19 degrees, even with the windows cracked.

"It's really not a safe choice to make," said Petra Vybiralova, the Safe Kids supervisor at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

Vybiralova says even air conditioning will not prevent heat stroke because the sun is still pounding on the vehicle and leaving a child under the age of six inside a running car is illegal under current law.

"Children up to the age of five do not self regulate their body temperature, so they are much more at risk for heat stroke," said Vybiralova.

State Bill 92, proposed by Senator Lauren Book and Senator Linda Stewart, is making its way through Florida House and Senate committees. If the law were to pass, parents could be charged with a second degree misdemeanor for leaving children in the car unattended for any amount of time. Plus, if a responding officer cannot find the child's parents after removing him or her from the car, the child will be taken to the Department of Children and Families.

At least one mother in Florida is in favor of the change.

"I wouldn't even trust my kids alone for 15 minutes," said McKenzie Blankenship, a mother of two from Tampa.  "They'd take off, go down the street, probably go to the closest Chick-fil-A and eat lunch."

Blankenship says that while it takes time getting a three-point car seat harness off and on for a two-minute trip into the Post Office, she believes the new law will save lives.

"Sometimes, those clear rules and guidelines are kind of a better route to go," said Blankenship.

There have also been recent incidents in Florida where a thief stole a vehicle with a child inside.

In May 2016, a 12-year-old sitting in the front passenger seat of his mothers car was punched in the face by a person attempting to steal the car. In October 2017, a 16-year-old was inside their father's car when a man attempted to take off in it.

While the proposed law would not have affected either of those cases, it might prevent parents from leaving kids of any age alone in a vehicle for any amount of time.