Oklahoma, Missouri bills intended to protect children left in cars

| 3/21/2007

The Oklahoma Senate unanimously approved a bill that would discourage adults from leaving small children unattended in motor vehicles. The bill's next stop is the House.

Sponsored by Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, the "Forget-Me-Not Vehicle Safety Act" would make it illegal to leave children 6 years of age or younger alone in vehicles. The only exception would be if another person in the vehicle was at least 12 years old.

"I've seen one study that says on the average, about 30 children a year die nationwide from either being left in a hot car or getting into a parked car without any supervision and being trapped," Paddack said in a written statement. "We also know that kids left in cars can be kidnapped by car thieves, and we've seen that happen in Oklahoma as well."

Violators would face fines of at least $50. Repeat offenders would be fined at least $100 and required to complete at least 50 hours of community service. Subsequent offenses would result in at least $200 fines and an evaluation by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

The protections also would apply to vulnerable adults left unattended in vehicles.

The bill - SB551 - is awaiting assignment to committee in the House.

A similar effort has been offered in the Missouri General Assembly. There, a House bill would create the crime of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle.

A violation of the protection would be committed when a child 10 years old or younger is left unattended in a motor vehicle and the child's health or safety is at risk, the engine is running, or the keys are anywhere in the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Violators would face up to 15 days in jail and/or $50 fines.

Missouri law already makes it a crime to leave a child 10 years old or younger unattended in a motor vehicle if the child injures or kills another person by causing a motor vehicle collision or by causing the motor vehicle to injure or kill a pedestrian.

Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Threlkeld, R-Washington, HB113 has been forwarded to the House floor for consideration.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor