By Rep. Marilyn Lee
Finally—after 7 years, a bill which makes it unlawful to leave a child under 9 unattended in a motor vehicle has passed.
In 2007, media reports show that more than 35 children were known to have died across the nation from injuries sustained by being left alone in a car. These numbers do not include those who were left in a hot car and saved just in time, or those who have suffered but have not died as a result of being left in cars. Far too many children have lost their lives or suffered when it is completely preventable.
This bill will help protect innocent lives by prohibiting operators and adult passengers of motor vehicles from leaving the vehicle with an unattended child under the age of nine inside for more than five minutes, and makes such conduct a violation of the statewide traffic code.
This prohibition provides one more tool with which law enforcement, firefighter, or rescue team personnel may take concrete action in protecting Hawaii's children by allowing personnel to use whatever means necessary to protect and remove endangered, unattended children from the vehicles. Law enforcement, firefighters, or rescue team personnel will be required to immediately report this violation to the police if the guardian of the unattended child cannot be located within a reasonable time.
In addition, there is an educational component, which requires the examiner of drivers to test license applicants for knowledge of this offense. The requirements and penalties of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle shall be printed on a card, which shall be placed in the glove compartment of every rental motor vehicle offered to the public.
I am very happy that the children of our state will now have this measure of protection.