NewsFlorida News


Florida Senate, House bills aim to prevent children from dying in hot cars

families with serious faces.jpg
Posted at 3:45 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 17:12:07-04

A bill aimed at keeping children from dying in hot cars is on the Florida Senate calendar for its second reading on Wednesday. An identical bill is in the house.

The Child Safety Alarm Act would mandate a detection system in childcare vehicles, alerting drivers if kids are left behind.

"My brain still tells me. That I dropped them off and it didn't happen," Stephanie Salvilla said.

Prior to the birth of her baby boy Gannon, Salvilla says she felt more than prepared.

"I spent three years accumulating enough maternity vacation leave for my maternity leave," Salvilla said. "I was the parent that incorporated the routine of putting the baby bottles in the front seat."

But when her daughter got sick in July 2009, she says a series of events threw her off.

"She went to work with me another day. We all stayed home. Gannon was at a different daycare facility. We had a different driving routine every day," Salvilla said.

On the first day of getting back to normal, she says her husband helped with loading up the kids.

"The baby bottles got put in the back seat," Salvilla said.

When Salvilla got to work, she finished her mental checklist.

"When I looked over, there was no bottle to help cue that something was wrong," Salvilla said.

Gannon remained in the back of that hot car for hours and died. Now, Salvilla is a staunch parent advocate for

baby gannon.JPG
A photo of baby Gannon

"In hot car tragedies, what happens is there's a human error," Director of Amber Rollins said. is a nonprofit dedicated to saving children's lives in and around vehicles. They keep data on these incidents.

The organization's numbers show Florida is only second to Texas in hot car deaths. Thirteen percent of fatalities involve a child left by a daycare provider. That's higher than the nationwide average of 7%.

families with serious faces.jpg

Currently, the Department of Children and Families protocol for daycare transportation includes keeping a log of children who get in and out of the bus or van. The driver must also write down when the child is dropped off. Then the driver and another staff member has to sign off that no children have been left behind.

"What that tells us is this log system that's currently in place isn't working and we need to take a step further to protect children. And there is technology that exists that can completely prevent this from happening," Rollins said.

In documents accompanying the House's Child Safety Alarm Act, it specifies that devices can be bought for less than $160, but it could cost almost $500 to install.

Rollins suggests daycare owners should consider a device that has alerts like a text message to the driver, sounds the horn or flashes the lights.

DCF numbers show this would impact more than 1,500 childcare centers that provide transportation.

If the bill were to pass, Florida would be among the ranks of Arkansas, California, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin that have passed similar legislation.