TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida leads the nation this year in child hot car deaths, with six of 18. The latest was a ten-month-old just last month. The stats have some now suggesting there’s more lawmakers could do to help, though state leaders said Monday the fix is on your foot.
"If you heard nothing else from us -- this is a preventable thing," said Florida’s Department of Children and Families Sec. Shevaun Harris during a Tallahassee press conference.
Harris, an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, said the problem is not something she thinks lawmakers need to tackle with harsher penalties in the upcoming session. Instead, Harris suggested a shoe.
"You might forget a backpack -- you might even forget your purse. No one is leaving a car without their shoe, right, on their foot," Harris said. "If you are -- there are other things we need to be talking about. Leave something that you know you can't live without."
Second, only to Texas, Florida has had at least 117 child-hot car deaths since 1990.
It’s taken legislative action to address the issue in the past. Not only does state law allow passersby to break car windows to rescue children or animals in distress. Lawmakers in 2021 also approved a measure requiring childcare transport vehicles to have alarms.
Even so, Florida has still seen its worst summer since 2017.
"This is not something that's going away," said Amber Rollins, the director of national nonprofit Kids and Car Safety. "We're not going to educate it away, and awareness is at an all-time high. So, we've got to do more."
The child safety advocates at Kids and Car Safety think there's plenty more Florida can do, especially with state law. For decades, the nonprofit has pushed legislatures across the country to adopt policies like…
- Required hot car education
- Alarms for all passenger vehicles transporting kids, even private ones.
- Or quicker parental notification for unexpected absences at childcare facilities
"Florida would be a great place to start doing something like that because, unfortunately, Florida is paving the way in the worst kind of way for hot car deaths in the US," said Rollins.
It's unclear if any of those ideas will get consideration as the legislative session approaches. Officials in the state House and Senate we spoke with said they haven't heard of anything in the works. But, there's plenty of time for a change before January's 2024 session gavel drop.