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Lawmaker hopes to decrease hot-car deaths with new legislation

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Legislation from Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, would require day care facilities in Alabama to call a child’s guardian if the child is not at the center by 9:30 a.m.

Wood told Alabama Daily News the goal is to prevent deaths if parents mistakenly leave their children in their cars.

“People get caught up in their busy lifestyle nowadays and sometimes one parent isn’t accustomed to bringing their child to day care and then they get to work and leave the child in the back seat,” Wood said.  “That has happened over and over again, and that’s what happened here.”

The bill is titled the Cash Edwin Jordan Act, named after the 11-month-old boy who died after being left in the back seat of a car with his twin sister in Oxford last year. Their father forgot to take them to day care before going to work, according to media reports. They were left in the car for several hours.

Wood said he’d been aware of the hot-car deaths previously, too.

“I had been watching this issue for the last several years, and it’s always in the summertime, there is always a child somewhere that is killed being left in a hot car,” Wood said.

According to the National Safety Council, nationwide 51 children died in 2019 after being left in hot cars. Three were in Alabama.

Wood said this law would apply to any and all day care facilities in the state, even privatized ones, and should be relatively easy to implement.

“Say you have a day care with 20 kids, how many are actually going to be out?” Wood said. “Probably only one or two.  All they have to do is call them and if they’ve used all the numbers they have and haven’t reached anyone, then they’ve done all they can do.”

Wood also hopes parents who have a sick child would call ahead to let day cares know of the absence.

A law passed last year also tried to address hot car deaths in the state. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, gives criminal immunity to anyone who breaks into a car in order to rescue a child or disabled person from unsafe conditions, including excessive heat.

The law requires someone entering a car to first call a public safety official and explain the situation. The person is also required to wait near the car with the child until first responders arrive.

Some car companies have already taken steps to include “rear-seat reminder systems” that go off when a person leaves his or her car as a reminder to check the back seats.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers announced last year it would equip nearly 100% of passenger cars and trucks sold in the U.S. with rear-seat reminder systems by model-year 2025, according to Forbes.

Wood says his bill is a relatively simple one with an objective to save lives.

“I think if we can just save one child’s life, everything is worthwhile,” Wood said. “If we can be the cause of an intersection being changed or people wearing seat belts and save one life, then everything is worthwhile.”

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