Last year's death of 4-year-old Jordan Coleman in Tamarac, when investigators said day care workers left him in a hot SUV last summer, has haunted Broward County child advocates.
"That was the catalyst for [former County Commissioner] Ilene [Lieberman] and I," Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler said Friday during the start of an awareness campaign aimed at parents and a new ordinance for the child care industry. "[It was] the carelessness."
Florida ranks second in the U.S. for kids dying in hot cars, with at least 66 fatalities statewide from 1992 to present, according to KidsandCars.org, a national group that seeks to prevent harm to children around automobiles.
Last year, Palm Beach County required child care facilities that transport six or more kids to install vehicle alarms; Broward's ordinance goes into effect July 1.
The purpose of an alarm is to bring a driver to the back of a van to turn off the loud warning and to find any kids left behind.
Broward County has 852 child care facilities and about half of those businesses drive kids, said Regenia Walker, county manager for child care licensing and enforcement.
The county, the Children's Services Council and the Early Learning Coalition will help with installation costs, up to $400 per alarm, from a $165,000 budget, Walker said.
If an inspector finds a business hasn't complied, there is a civil fine of up to $250, Walker said. When children are harmed, adults can be prosecuted under state criminal law.
"It's incumbent that we act and impose guidelines," Walker said. "These are precious babies, our most vulnerable citizens."
On Friday, a CBS billboard unveiled on Griffin Road in Hollywood reminds drivers to "look before you lock." One of four billboards going up around Broward County, the messages will be viewed an estimated 4 million times over June and July, officials said.
"I'm very, very proud that we were able to bring this to fruition, and now let's see if we can save some lives," said Wexler, a grandmother. "I hope there are no more dead children."
On May 16, an 11-month-old boy died, reportedly after being left by his mother in a car in west Miami-Dade County. In Aug. 2010, Haile Brockington, 2, was found dead in a Delray Beach day care center's van.
Adults were charged with aggravated manslaughter in these cases as well as the Coleman incident.
One preventative measure: put a handbag or cellphone on the back seat as a reminder to fetch a drowsy child.
"Any time a child dies in a hot car or in van is an excruciating tragedy to the family and to all of us who care about children," said Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, president of the Children's Services Council.
Ltrischitta@Tribune.com, 954-356-4233 or Twitter @LindaTrischitta