When Ramiro de Jesus Rodriguez came to this country from Nicaragua two years ago, he wanted a better life for his wife and young daughter.
But Monday, Rodriguez faced trial on a vehicular manslaughter charge in his 3-year-old daughter's death because the child wasn't in a seat restraint.It's one of several recent cases around the country in which parents have been held legally responsible for the safety of children in their cars.
Veronica Rodriguez died of head injuries after she flew out of her mother's arms and hit the dashboard of the family car last August. Rodriguez was driving.
Florida requires small children to ride in car seat restraints. Police at the scene said Veronica probably would have survived had she been buckled in.
"It was an accident," the 30-year-old cook said in Spanish. "It could happen to anybody."
Rodriguez said he'll carry the grief of his child's death the rest of his life and considered his daughter's death "fate, rather than being guilty of something."
In a similar case, a Pennsylvania man was charged earlier this month with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his 4-year-old daughter after she was thrown from his car.
A woman in Smyrna, Ga., pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor, in a 1989 accident that killed her infant son. She was sentenced to perform community service.
Prosecution has been dropped in some other cases.
Although all states have child passenger safety laws, hundreds of young children die every year in car accidents. More than 500 deaths and about 56,000 injuries could be prevented if child-restraint seats were used correctly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.