Free-Range Kids

Florida Legislator Wants to Make It a Crime to Leave Your Kid in the Car for Just One Minute

But why?

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Steering wheel
Vanoa2 / Dreamstime

In the state of Florida, it could soon be illegal to leave a child age 6 or younger in the car for any amount of time. Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Democrat, has filed a bill to make this so.

But why? Considering more kids die in parking lots than in parked cars, and that the kids who do die in parked cars were forgotten there for an average of 4.6 hours, not a few minutes, this bill is motivated by a clearly misguided sense of danger.

No one thinks kids should wait in cars for a long time, but that is already against the law in Florida. This bill would merely criminalize convenience, as if convenience is synonymous with negligence and death. According to the Tallahassee Democrat:

The proposal (HB 115), filed for consideration during the 2018 legislative session, would be stricter than current law. Adults currently can't leave children in vehicles for more than 15 minutes or for any period of time if the motor is running, the health of a child is in danger or a child appears to be in distress.

Under Slosberg's proposal, violations would be punishable by a second-degree misdemeanor charge, which carries a penalty of up to $500 and 60 days jail.

Violating current law is considered a noncriminal traffic infraction that carries a fine between $50 and $500. Felony charges are already in place if a child is harmed.

The word for this kind of bill is overkill. It's as if, desperate to prove, I care about kids! a representative casts about for a bill that will shout her child-caring virtue. And if that legislation already exists, as it does in Florida, they then have to bump it up, as if to say, I care more! Which means the next legislator will have to say, Even kids under 12 should never be left alone in the car! And the next, Parents who let their kids wait in the car while they get the dry cleaning should face a year in solitary! And the next, No more driving kids in Florida!

Related: Why do we keep criminalizing parents for activities we disapprove of that aren't statistically dangerous? Hint: It has to do with moral disapproval.

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