TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz to establish a public awareness campaign to provide information to the public concerning the dangers of leaving children unattended in and around motor vehicles, and preventative measures that may be taken by parents or guardians to promote child safety and protect against unintended injury or death, received final legislative approval today in the Senate.
“Leaving children unattended in vehicles, even for a very brief period of time, can expose them to grave dangers. Yet every year we hear of cases of babies left in cars in sweltering heat, extreme cold, or vulnerable to other hazards in the vehicle that could result in serious harm or death,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Educating parents about the risks associated with leaving children alone in and around a motor vehicle is critically important to protecting kids in our state and could ultimately save lives.”
Statistics show that, on average, 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles, and even the most well intentioned parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car resulting in the child’s injury or death. The temperature of a vehicle, even with an open window, can rise rapidly and a child may easily incur heat stroke, causing brain damage or death within minutes. In addition to heat stroke, the consequences of leaving a child unattended in and around a motor vehicle include the dangers of abduction, strangulation, trunk entrapment, being run over, and personal injuries caused by accidental and uncontrolled movement of the vehicle.
The bill (S2609) would require the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety in consultation with the Department of Children and Families to create a public awareness campaign. The division would be required to provide printed and electronic educational materials concerning child safety in and around motor vehicles and to disseminate those materials to licensed child care centers in the state, at public venues throughout the state, and by any other means the director may determine in collaboration with other governmental entities, including the Department of Children and Families and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
The bill would require the division to report to the Governor and the Legislature concerning the activities and accomplishments of the public awareness campaign within two years of the bill’s effective date.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 33-0. The Assembly approved it last year by a vote of 73-0. It now goes to the governor’s desk.