Bill aimed at preventing hot car deaths at day cares heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing

Child Safety Alarm Act would require day cares install alarms in transport vans

Crime scene tape, balloons and stuffed animals line the street in front of Little Miracles Academy in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, one day after 3-year-old Myles Hill was found dead in a day care van. (Erik Sandoval/WKMG)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill that would require day care facilities to install alarms in their vans passed both the Florida House and Senate and is now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for his signature to become law.

If DeSantis signs off on the legislation, day care businesses would be required to install after market car alarms on their transportation vans if one isn’t already included. The alarms will alert drivers if something or someone is left in the backseat. Alarms will cost about $200 to install.

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State Sen. Linda Stewart, of Orlando, introduced the legislation in the Senate and has been trying to pass SB 252, or the “Child Safety Alarm Act,” since she took office.

“I just can’t believe that this bill, this is going on the third year. It’s just crazy. And every year we sine die (adjourn) and we start counting up the deaths for the next year,” Stewart told News 6 in March.

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 in March. “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.”

Florida has the second highest number of child deaths caused by being left in hot cars in the nation, second only to Texas. Lawmakers in the Longhorn state passed a similar bill nearly eight years ago. California, Tennessee, and Wisconsin have also passed similar laws.

The safety act would require the Florida Department of Children and Families to adopt minimum safety standards for such alarm systems and to maintain a list of approved alarm manufacturers and alarm systems that day care businesses can use.

As summer approaches and the legislative session comes to a close, the bill’s passing was important to Stewart.

“After we leave session two to three children in Florida die. Every year,” she said.

There have been several recent deaths in Florida tied to children being left in day care vans.

In 2017, 3-year-old Myles Hill was found dead in a van outside an Orlando day care after authorities say he was left in a hot vehicle for possibly up to 11 hours.

In 2019, a 4-month-old baby found unconscious in a van at a Jacksonville day care later died. The same year, a 2-year-old boy was found dead inside a transport van parked outside a Broward County day care.

With DeSantis’ sign off, the law would go into effect in October.

About the Author:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.