Florida bill cracks down on leaving children alone in cars

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Some lawmakers are looking to make big changes concerning leaving children in cars.

A new bill making its way through the Florida Legislature aims to make it illegal to leave a child alone in a car, even for just a moment.

Current Florida law says an adult can leave a child under the age of 6 alone in a car for up to 15 minutes. 

Under the new bill, parents could be charged with a misdemeanor if they leave a child alone for any length of time.
 
Stephanie Pippin, who has a 4-year-old son, said from a Publix parking lot that she couldn't help but get emotional when she found out about the bill that aims to crack down on leaving children alone inside cars.

"I've just heard way too many stories," she said. "If the car is left unlocked, somebody could come and take it, with your child in it. People have left their kids in an unlocked car. I wouldn't know what to do with myself."

Those scenarios are why Pippin believes the bill is a good idea.

If passed, parents could face a second-degree misdemeanor for leaving a child in a car.

The proposed bill would also give police officers the right to remove a child if the child is left behind for just a few minutes, and to turn the child over to the Department of Children and Families if the parents can't be found. 

Danielle Kessenger with Safe Kids Northeast Florida said in a 10-minute time frame, the temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees on a 72-degree day.

"The car is not a babysitter," Kessenger said. "The car is not a playground. The car is a means of getting from here to there. We should really use it as such and be cautious."

Pippin agrees, and said no matter what the situation is, parents should not leave their children alone in a car.

"It takes a second. And so if you can protect your kids, why not just have them with you at all times,” Pippin said. 

The bill also calls for a third-degree felony charge if a child is badly hurt after being left alone in a car. If this were to pass, it would take effect in October. 

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