SALT LAKE CITY — Leaving a young child unattended in a car would become a separate crime under a bill the state Senate approved 18-10 on Thursday.

SB124 would make it a class C misdemeanor for a person to knowingly or intentionally leave a child under age 9 in a car.

Law enforcement currently prosecutes people for doing that under the state's child abuse laws, said sponsoring Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake. Because the behavior puts children at risk it "needs to be punished but it is not child abuse," he said.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, voted against the proposed law saying it could punish people who leave children unattended to help someone in an emergency.

"We're drawing a string around parents assuming they don't have any common sense," he said. "It leaves too much room for parents to get in trouble for even doing what's right."

— Dennis Romboy