‘Back seat alarm’ bill gains steam in Florida Senate

100 children have died in FL hot cars since 1990

ORLANDO – Some lawmakers want to upgrade daycare vans with alarms that would go off if something or someone is left in the backseat.

Florida is second in the nation in hot car deaths, a bill aimed to lower this number is facing hurdles.

“I just can’t believe that this bill has taken so long to pass. This is going on the third year, and it is just crazy,” Sen. Linda Stewart said. “Every year we sine die, and we start counting up the deaths for the next year.”

For the last several years, Stewart has been trying to move the Child Safety Alarm Act through the Florida legislature, one which she says would save the lives of children.

“Every year I file the bill. Every year it goes to the Senate and it gets stalled in the house,” Stewart told News 6 investigator Merris Badcock.

If passed, the act would force daycare facilities to install alarms in their vans which would notify the driver if someone or something gets left in the back seat.

“Every year, after we leave the session, two or three children in Florida die [in hot cars]. Every year,” Stewart said.

According to KidsandCars.org, a national nonprofit aimed at ending hot car deaths, Stewart is right. Most state legislative sessions end just before or during the summer months, and yet nationwide, 76 percent of all kids who have died in hot cars were killed between June and September.

“Why do we continue to let this happen? I am hoping this year we will put an end to that,” Stewart said.

An identical House bill was filed by Rep. Ben Diamond.

“There are arguments against this bill. I do not think those arguments have any merit,” Diamond told News 6 during a Zoom interview. “There is concern that this is a new regulation, and we need to be sensitive to new regulations, but the reality is we have kids dying every year in these tragedies in Florida.”

In the last 21 years, 100 kids have died in Florida as a result of being left in a hot car. Florida ranks second behind Texas for hot car deaths, and Texas already passed a law requiring daycare vans to have backseat alarms more than eight years ago.

California, Tennessee, and Wisconsin have also passed similar laws.

“It is every parent’s worst nightmare, and we can do something about it,” Diamond said. “This legislature has taken steps before to pass sensible regulations that protect children.

“I think when you look at how minimal the cost is to the child care providers and the fact that you could save a life, it is, in my mind, it is a no-brainer.”

According to the proposed legislation, alarms would costs daycare facilities anywhere from roughly $200 to $600 depending on the alarm they choose.

The Stewart’s Senate bill is likely to make it to the Senate floor for a vote. It just needs to make it through one more committee.

House Bill 1287 is still waiting to be heard by any committees assigned for review.

News 6 investigators have reached out to House lawmakers in charge of the subcommittees and committee assigned to review HB 1287 to see if they plan to hear the bill at all.

Those lawmakers include Rep Thad Altman (R), Chair of the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee; Rep. Bryan Avila (R), Chair of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee; and Rep. Colleen Burton (R), Chair of the Health & Human Services Committee.

We will keep you posted on their responses.

About the Author: