This year has been fatal for several children left unattended in cars in Florida. The state Department of Children and Families, or DCF, is trying to spread awareness of the issue to prevent more tragedy.
DCF records show seven children have died of heat stroke after being left in cars since 2013. Two of those deaths occurred in June. In the past week and a half, DCF has noted six instances of children's being left alone in vehicles. And though none of those cases was fatal, some children were hospitalized.
Leaving a child unattended in a car isn’t just negligence, it’s illegal. Florida law prohibits leaving children younger than 6 unattended in a vehicle for longer than 15 minutes-- or for any duration if the child’s health is threatened.
DCF spokeswoman Michelle Glady says the summer is when parents can be the most distracted.
“Sometimes parents and caregivers are distracted, they’re multitasking, there’s a change in the routine," Glady says. "It’s especially true during the summer months when kids are out of school and they have a different caretaker or driver.”
Glady says she recommends a simple trick to help parents stay aware: leave their cell phones or important documents in the backseat with the child. She also encourages parents to stay in contact with their children's caretakers. To try and spread awareness, Glady says the agency has created public service announcement videos and images and is working with childcare facilities across Florida.
“DCF licenses over 10,000 childcare facilities. We’ve gotten the message out to them to help them remind the parents they communicate with regularly,” Glady says.
Glady encourages people to call the police if they see a child left unattended in a vehicle.