Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Ralph Caputo, Thomas Giblin, Gabriela Mosquera, Angelica Jimenez, Benjie Wimberly and Raj Mukherji to create a public awareness campaign on the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles was advanced Monday by a Senate committee.
“Every year, heartbreaking and preventable deaths occur when children are left unattended in cars,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Making parents and child caretakers more aware of the dangers that exist will hopefully help prevent future tragedies.”
“We’ve heard countless tragic stories of parents saying, ‘I only left them alone in the car while I ran inside for a minute,’ but in extreme heat or cold a minute or two can be life-threatening,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “A coordinated public awareness campaign will hopefully help avoid these dangers.”
The bill (A-155) would require the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, to establish a public awareness campaign to provide information to the general 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.
The division would be required to provide printed and electronic educational materials concerning child safety in and around motor vehicles and to disseminate the materials to licensed child care centers and public venues throughout the state, as well as any means determined appropriate by the departments.
“Sometimes even the most well-intentioned parents don’t realize how quickly the situation can become dangerous when a child is left alone in a car,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “With the proper public awareness, we can make sure no one underestimates the risks involved when leaving a child alone in a vehicle.”
“Parents and guardians should be aware of the dangers of heat stroke and the effects of cold weather children left unattended in a vehicle,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “There’s no safe amount of time to leave children alone in a car in any season. Raising awareness of this fact in will help save more lives in the future.”
“Leaving a child alone in a vehicle ‘just for a minute’ can lead to a horrible, unnecessary tragic death,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “Anyone with a child should understand the danger and be encouraged to think carefully before deciding to ‘run inside just for a minute’ or assume ‘this won’t take long.’ A campaign will inform New Jersey parents of the risks and, hopefully, help them make the right decisions regarding their children.”
“This legislation is about raising awareness of the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “A campaign would serve as a reminder for parents of the kinds of tragedies that can occur if a child is left in a car in severe weather even momentarily.”
“When a small child is locked inside a car, vehicular heatstroke is a possibility – even if the temperature outside doesn’t seem exceedingly hot,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “In the same way that New Jersey has had campaigns to create awareness about the importance of wearing a seatbelt and the danger of texting and driving, we need to ensure that parents recognize that leaving a child in a car for even a brief period of time can have devastating consequences.”
The bill would require the division to report the activities and accomplishments of the public awareness campaign to the governor and the legislature within two years of the bill’s effective date.
The measure, which gained unanimous Assembly approval in September, was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.