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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Bill would fine parents for leaving kids in car

Cars are not babysitters’ advocate says

February 20, 2007

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— Child advocates Tuesday urged lawmakers to approve a bill that would assess a $25 fine to adults who leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

"Cars are not babysitters," Dr. Dennis Cooley, a Topeka pediatrician told the Senate Transportation Committee.

Child safety experts warned of numerous dangers of leaving children alone in a vehicle, including excessive heat, getting caught in automatic windows, the possibility of being abducted during a car theft and crashes caused when the child accidentally starts the vehicle in motion.

"These tragedies are truly heart-wrenching, but preventable," said Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars, a non profit organization.

In Kansas, there are currently two choices for law officers when they see a child has been left alone in a vehicle.

They can scold the adult or take the children into custody and charge the parent or caregiver with child neglect or endangerment.

Senate Bill 77 would make it unlawful to leave a child 8 years old or younger alone in a vehicle unless they are accompanied by someone 13 or older.

Fennell said the bill would provide a reasonable alternative by authorizing a fine of $25 and developing a safety awareness campaign with the use of federal highway funds. A fine of between $250 and $500 would be assessed for a second conviction within three years of a prior fine.

From 1998 through last year, at least 320 children have died in the United States from hyperthermia or heat stroke after being left in a car, Fennell said. Four of these deaths occurred in Kansas.

Also at least two Kansas children have died since 2001 after being strangled by power windows, she said.

More education of adults on the danger is needed because on an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car parked under direct sunlight increases to 110 degrees within five minutes.

Committee Chairman Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, said car manufacturers were making changes in vehicles to avoid some hazards, such as back-up sensors and power window switches that must be pulled up instead of pushed down.

But he added, "If you had a vehicle with all these things on it, you would still have to be careful."

After the hearing, Donovan said the committee would probably work on the bill Wednesday.

Comments

Jladance 7 years, 1 month ago

I just had an experience this morning at 9:30a.m. at our local Starbucks. I am a mother of 6 month old twins, and they are my world. I always jog with them, and take them into everywhere I go and have never left them in the car untill this morning.

Today, I left them in the car, with their sun shades over them, windows cracked,covered by the roof shad of building and the car locked. I parked in the front of starbucks on purpose so I could see my girls. My coffee took longer than anticipated so I went outside to hang with them and went back in and still no coffee, so I was going to just wait in the car with them. This time on my way out this lady with her husband was making eye contact with me, and I knew what she was thinking.

She approached me and said,"You left your babies in your car". I was caught off guard, and then she told me it's illegal, and that she has two kids. Well, I had no time to respond, except that she doesn't know me or my intentions. I was watching them the whole time, it was not warm,lasted about 8 minutes (in and out also) it was a nice spring morning. I would never leave them and not be able to see them, or if the weather was not safe. They were asleep, and they had no danger except if someone were to drive their car into my parked car.

I feel strongly that I am a good parent, and wouldn't have left them if I was on any erand, but in my opinion it's case sensitive. Use commons sense. The only reason we have certain laws are because their are stupid people. This law (California)was developed in 2001 because a man left his 6 month old daughter in the car for two hours with the windows up, and she died. I think it's called the Kaitlyn's Law (spelling?) To recognize Kaitlyn's death as an example for future parent's not to leave their children unattending in a car

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denak 7 years, 2 months ago

lol...some of you need to get over yourselves.

Read what I wrote again. I didn't suggest leaving one's child alone for extended periods of time, or in excessive heat, or with the keys in the ignition or if they are a certain age.

You may not like what I wrote but I can guarentee you that if you were to go to a convenience store on any given day, you will see parents running into the store real quick with their children in the car. That is the reality even if you don't like it.

There are real dangers that the state should be concerned about but this is not one of them. This is overkill.

If you want to get upset over something, get upset over people who allow their children out of their seats while they are driving. People who don't have their children in proper restraints.

A parent who leaves a sleeping toddler in a car seat, while they run into the gas station, that is less than 10 feet away, and who has the keys to the car, is not putting that child in any real danger.

I am sure that if I went into your house I could find a lot of ways where your children are in danger. Have you ever read the back of bath products that you buy for your kids? Shampoos, color pellets, bubble bath, guess what it says, "Keep out of the hands of children" but I bet you give the child the shampoo.

Maybe we should fine you. Are all your outlets covered. Doubtful. Maybe we should fine you. Or maybe we should fine you when you allow your child to ride his or her bike without a helmet. Or watch a PG13 movie when your child is only 12.

All of those examples are ridiculous on purpose. Just like this fine is.

You can't regulate every single thing a parent does. That has to be some kind of parental discretion. And just because a parent does one thing that you don't approve us, does not mean that that parent is a bad parent.

Molesting your child, makes you a bad parent. Hitting your child, makes you a bad parent. Ridiculing your child, or withholding food, makes you a bad parent.

Leaving your child, in the car, for a very short period of time, where you can see the car and the child at all times, where the child is properly restrained and can not get out of the restraint, and during times where the tempature is not an extreme, is not child abuse and does not make a parent a bad parent.

However, if you really believe so and you are really oh so concerned about all these neglected and endangered children, lets see you put your money where your mouth is. Call KCSL, the Farm, or KVC and sign up to be a foster parent and take care of these children.

Somehow, I don't think you will. It is much easier to be arrogant and call a person an "idiot" then to actually do something concrete about real child abuse.

Dena

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Bobbi Reid 7 years, 2 months ago

I disagree, if you want to jeopardize your kids, then go ahead.. I think you would be the bozo..

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ksknowall 7 years, 2 months ago

I do not need my every minute regulated by the government.

Can anybody say "Nanny State"

Bozo's

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blackwalnut 7 years, 2 months ago

$25 won't make a difference.

Jail time might.

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Bobbi Reid 7 years, 2 months ago

DenaK.. get a debit card, and you won't have to leave your kid in the car. I too have a toddler, and will always take her in with me no matter what.. there is no excuse for leaving your kids in the car because it is convenient for you.. if you wanted everything to be convenient, then you should not have had kids.. just my opinion..

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shadower 7 years, 2 months ago

Denak, you are a total idiot. Your car can and in many cases cars have been stolen in that "5 minutes" you run in to some convienence store. And what it makes you is a stupid parent.

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Jamesaust 7 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps the appropriate fine would be to deny a tax exemption to the parents for the child in the year of the citation?

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Bowhunter99 7 years, 2 months ago

we're going to see a LOT more kids wandering around liquor stores and gas stations whilst their parents are buying 'forties' and scratching their lottery tickets...

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denak 7 years, 2 months ago

Usually, I am all for bills, regulations, laws (whatever) that are aimed at keeping children safer and for parents to be more responsible but I think this is a little bit of an overkill.

There is a HUGE difference between leaving a child in a car for less than 5 mins to run into a Quick shop to pay for gas. I've done this before and to be honest, I will probably do it again. And yes, I do it because it is easier. If you have a toddler, strapped into a car seat, in a warm car on a cold, rainy day, and all you have to do is run a few feet into a gas station, it is easier and it is better for the child, to leave the child there for a minute or two. Why wake a toddler up, take him out in the cold pouring rain, just to do something that takes 2 mins.

Now, would I leave a 4 year in the car. No, because the 4 year old can get herself out of her restraints. I wouldn't leave a 6 year old either. Kids that age can unbuckle their seatbelts and mess with stuff.

Age 8 is a little iffy. I had a friend who left her 8 year old in a car to run in to get a soda at a Miller Mart, and when she came out, the child was sitting in the driver's seat pretending to drive. Scared the living death out of her. Luckily, she, my friend, had the keys.

But I think if you are irresponsible enough to leave the keys in the ignition, then you probably should be fined. Leaving the keys in the ignition is just asking for trouble.

And even though I don't think there is anything "seriously" wrong with leaving a child in the car for a very, short period of time, a time less than 5 mins and where you can see the car at all time, and when the child can not remove his or her restraints, I do think there is something seriously wrong with leaving a child in the car for a long time.

Especially if the child is young, can remove his or her restraints, where it is very hot outside etc.

There is no reason to leave a child in the car if you are going grocery shopping. Yes, children are annoying sometimes when you go grocery shopping but if it is too much of a hassle to take them, find another time to do it.

Most parents should accomandate the child's schedule becuase the child is younger, more immature (or at least I hope so) and unable to exercise control but there are certain times, when it is ok for the parent to take a short cut or two.

I just don't see where this is that big of a deal.

And no, that does not make me a bad parent.

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farmgirl 7 years, 2 months ago

It only takes a second for things to go very wrong.

I would much rather have a wet/tired/cranky/won't go back to sleep child, than a missing/injured/dead child. If letting the child remain in the car is that important, then the errand can wait.

Yes, "trying to keep the kid warm and dry while the parent does the sprint into the post office" IS about convenience for the parent. You cannot seriously believe that leaving a child unattended in a car is best for the safety of that child.

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Stephen 7 years, 2 months ago

There goes all my summer plans, foiled again!!!

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Bobbi Reid 7 years, 2 months ago

I used to live in McLouth.. and I would never leave my kids alone in my car when I lived there. I don't think that people realize that things happen even in small towns. My nephews were almost carjacked last year, when their dad left them in his truck at Quiktrip in Blue Springs, and a guy tried to steal the truck, but could not get it in gear. They were 7 and 8 years old at the time, and screamed and kicked until the guy gave up and ran off. NEVER LEAVE YOUR KIDS IN THE CAR!!! Are your errands more important than your kids lives???

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caracalla 7 years, 2 months ago

i am sure thats what the parents of abducted children used to think too.

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countrygirl 7 years, 2 months ago

Um, trying to keep the kid warm and dry while the parent does the sprint into the post office is a convenience?

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caracalla 7 years, 2 months ago

yes, leaving any aged child alone in a car makes you a bad parent, because you are putting your convenience above your childs safty.

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ruette 7 years, 2 months ago

So, according to the statement, you can leave a child of eight or under alone in a car if he's with someone thirteen or older. ??????

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Confrontation 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm waiting to see the posts from the parents of "gifted" children.

"My child is gifted. At age 4, she was able to drive the car, race up to speeds of 175mph, and parallel park. Shouldn't she be able to spend alone time in a car?"

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countrygirl 7 years, 2 months ago

So you're irresponsible if your child is 7 but not if he's 8? How do they come up with this cut off?

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sourpuss 7 years, 2 months ago

Does leaving your child in a car make you a terrible parent? No, but it does mean you're irresponsible. Granted, most of us are irresponsible about some things and most of the time it doesn't bring any harm, but in the few cases it does bring harm, sometimes irrepairable harm, is it worth the convenience?

Every time I hear on the news about some poor child being unintentionally kidnapped because someone stole a running car, or the car slips into gear, etc., I think "Why in the world would anyone take that chance?" I don't leave a PET in a car, much less a child. Something... ANYTHING could happen. Just thinking about leaving anything dear to me out there causes me anxiety. I wouldn't even leave an iPod in a car. It is not difficult to grab a child and take them with you, or run your errand later when you are alone. Kid gets wet? So? Better than being dead. Baby asleep? Probably won't wake up if you carry the carrier carefully. Having children is inconvenient. I wish people would realize that. All it takes is once... just once, and you'll wonder if mailing that letter was worth the life of your child.

There really is no excuse, sorry. Again, the cynical Darwinist in me comes out.

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imastinker 7 years, 2 months ago

I've left an infant in the truck when she's asleep before. I leave the truck running, grab my spare key and lock the doors. I never do it in a big town, and don't do it unless I can see the truck out a window.

Does this make me a terrible parent? I doubt it.

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compmd 7 years, 2 months ago

and my big question is this:

how does an officer know the age of a child in a car?

this is classic "think of the children" overregulation.

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blessed3x 7 years, 2 months ago

$25!!!! That's much too low. The new seatbelt law would fine those who don't buckle-up 2 or 3 times that amount. How many little ones have to be taken before people wise up? What's the fine for leaving your dog alone in the car? Probably a heluva lot more than $25.

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countrygirl 7 years, 2 months ago

So if they're 8, they can stay by themselves? Is there any kind of timeframe for how long they can stay? To me there's a huge difference to leave a child in the car for 2 minutes while you drop something off and leaving them in the car while you spend an hour in a store. Do they take weather conditions into account? I've left my son in the car just long enough to run a letter into mail in a small town while it was pouring rain and I didn't want him soaked. Had we been in Lawrence, I would have taken him with me, rain or no rain.

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Bobbi Reid 7 years, 2 months ago

This is great, but how would they really enforce it.. I would never leave my kids in a car, but I see people do it all the time, and by the time the cops show up. They are gone...

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sourpuss 7 years, 2 months ago

"Child advocates Tuesday urged lawmakers to approve a bill that would assess a $25 fine to adults who leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

"Cars are not babysitters," Dr. Dennis Cooley, a Topeka pediatrician told the Senate Transportation Committee."

Actually, $25 is probably less than most babysitters, and certainly not enough to really stop this stupid practice. Part of me says this is just Darwinian behavior, and that the poor children will just reap the terrible consequences of bad parenting. The more reasonable and less cynical part of me wants these parents (for some reason they seem to typically be mothers) to be beaten silly by the law. Give them a night in jail, slap them with $250 or more for a fine - make it hurt, put their license on suspension for 6 months, give them a child case worker for 6 months. We could take the Hester Prynne approach and put a bumper sticker on their cars: "I left my child unattended in a car."

$25? Please. Why even bother?

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