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Is wilted lettuce more important than your kid?

July 23rd, 2004

The sign’s heading reads: “You wouldn’t leave your groceries in the car.. Why would you leave me?” First of all, people who take better care of their carrots than their kids shouldn’t be parents.

But the part about this sign that annoyed me the most was the note about the $100 fine for leaving a child in a car alone. It’s called “Kaitlyn’s Law,” formally the Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Act which took effect in California in January 2002. It reads:

Kaitlyn’s Law … makes it an infraction, punishable by a fine of $100 for any parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child 6 years of age or younger, to leave that child unattended in a motor vehicle without the supervision of someone at least 12 years of age or older.

Kids DIE from this but it’s only a $100 fine. Meanwhile, if you copy a couple of music CDs you could do up to 10 years in jail AND pay up to a $250,000 fine. What’s wrong with this picture? The actual DMV code has the even more laughable provision that if you are poor that the $100 fee may be waived if you take a “Don’t leave babies locked in cars because IT WILL KILL THEM, you lazy jerk” community education class.

Plus, as tragic as Kaitlyn’s death was (and the hundreds of other kids who were victims of their guardian’s neglect), I don’t think many people know about this law. And the law can only be a deterrant if people know about it. The problem is actually getting worse with a record 42 kids killed last year. Maybe people would pay more attention if we started actually punishing the people who do this. In Kaitlyn’s case, the babysitter only got 90 days in jail. Call me crazy, but I don’t think 90 days is suitable punishment for killing someone.