Florida Lawmakers Try to Reduce Number of Hot Vehicle Deaths
Every year more than three dozen children around the U.S. die after being left in hot vehicles. The children pass away due to severe hyperthermia, which occurs when their bodies’ temperature reaches above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and are unable to cool themselves. This risk is particularly high in Florida, which experiences hot temperatures throughout the year and extremely hot temperatures in the summer months. These high environmental temperatures cause the interior of vehicles to become blistering hot and inappropriate for children.
When a parent or other caretaker is found to have left the child in a hot vehicle on purpose, they may face criminal charges. However, many instances of hot car deaths are accidents – something Florida lawmakers are trying to change by requiring day care vehicles to have safety alarms.
Senate Bill 486
SB 486 would require all vehicles used by child care facilities and large family child care homes to have an alarm system that forces the driver to inspect the vehicle after the children exit. This would become a minimum requirement, like the vehicle having appropriate seat belts and using child safety seats when necessary.
Which systems would be appropriate under the law would be determined by the Department of Children and Families.
If this bill passes the Florida legislature and is signed into law, then child care facilities would be required to comply by January 1, 2019.
What Will These Child Safety Alarms be Like?
There are numerous types of child safety alarms, also called backseat alarms. One type of alarm automatically goes off every time the vehicle is turned off. The driver must go to the back of the vehicle to press a button and turn the alarm off. This forces the driver to move to the back of the vehicle and check all of the seats and floor for a child that may not have exited the vehicle when they were supposed to.
Another type of alarm uses seat pads to determine when children and the driver are in their seats or not. When the driver leaves their seat, a speaker sounds an alarm or message reminding the driver to check for the children in the vehicle.
Another type of feature is already being built into GM vehicles. If a vehicle registers that a back door is opened and closed prior to the driver’s door, then a warning is triggered. The next time the driver goes to leave the vehicle, an alarm sounds and a reminder, “Look in the Rear Seat” pops up on the vehicle’s display.
Liability for Children by Day Care Staff
If this law goes into effect, it would hold drivers accountable for the children being transported. This could mean the driver’s and their day care employers could become legally liable if a child is left behind in a vehicle despite the alarm – or if the vehicle did not have a safety alarm like it should.
Florida Motor Vehicle Code Section 316.6135 makes it illegal to leave a child in a vehicle unattended. A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child younger than 6 cannot leave the child unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle for:
- More than 15 minutes, or
- Any period of time if the motor is running, the health of child is in danger, or the child appears to be in distress.
If an adult were to do this and cause great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a child, they would be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges?
If you are facing criminal charges or a civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit after leaving a child in a hot vehicle, contact us our experienced attorneys of Salazar & Kelly Law Group, P.A. at 407-483-0500. Our Kissimmee legal team is eager to assist you immediately.