Senate bill would create a crime of leaving children alone in cars

kids in cars, parking lot


The Senate unanimously passed legislation on Monday to prohibit children under the age of eight from being left in cars without supervision.

The bill (S.241), sponsored by Sen. Jack Martins, R-Mineola, aims to keep young children safe from life-threatening conditions that can occur in vehicles during warmer and cooler weather conditions.

“Cars should not be used as babysitters,” Martins said. “Leaving a young child inside an unattended vehicle is irresponsible, dangerous, and in some circumstances can lead to tragedy in a matter of minutes.

The bill adds a new section to the Vehicle and Traffic Law to create the infraction of leaving and unattended child in a motor vehicle, which is defined as leaving a child under the age of eight inside a motor vehicle without the supervision of a person age twelve or older, under conditions which knowingly or recklessly present a significant risk to the health and safety of such child.

It would take effect 90 days after being signed into law.

Between 1991 and 2014, more than 700 children across the United States have died of heat stroke from being left in cars. Studies show that when outside temperatures range from 72 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise approximately 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes, 29 degrees after 20 minutes, and 34 degrees after 30 minutes.

“Implementing this measure would create a new deterrent and reinforce the dangers of leaving young children alone in cars,” Martins said.

The bill memo cites other dangers created by leaving children unattended in motor vehicles, including an increased risk of abduction and the risk of an accident if the child attempts to operate the vehicle.

The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously and was approved by the Senate in a 61-0 vote on March 21. The bill was referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee.