The Phoenix Flyer

Lawmakers seek stricter consequences for leaving kids unattended in car and failing to use seat belts

By: - December 12, 2019 2:55 pm

Seat belt. Wikimedia Commons

A state lawmaker wants to increase current child welfare protections in Florida, focusing on instances where children are unattended in a vehicle or aren’t buckled up in seat belts or child safety seats.

State Rep. Cord Byrd, a Republican who represents Nassau and part of Duval County, presented legislation Thursday before the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee.

HB 413 would expand the definition of harm to include situations where a person leaves a child unattended in a car and fails to restrain them in a child safety seat.

In Florida, from 1998 to 2018, 89 children died from heat strokes in a car, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Byrd’s proposed legislation will expand the definition of “harm” to include other violations of current motor vehicle laws that result in injury or death of a child.

It also will authorize a medical evaluation to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred.

“This bill will require in cases where a physician substantiates that a violation of either of these aforementioned laws caused the death or injury of a child, then the department of health and child protection team will be called in to do a medical evaluation and determine whether there’s been child abuse or neglect,” Byrd said.

Florida law currently requires children to use seat belts or child safety seats while in a motor vehicle, he noted. The law also prohibits leaving a child unattended in a vehicle for an extended period of time.

“I think that the committee recognizes the importance of the bill and the goal it will accomplish,” Byrd said.

The subcommittee unanimously approved the legislation. It would still need to pass the full Legislature.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.