2015-06-30 / Front Page

State’s ‘Good Samaritan’ Law Aims To Save Lives

Staff Report

A new state law set to take effect in Indiana on July 1st is aimed at minimizing cases of young children being left unattended in a hot car during the summer months.

House Bill 1161, authored by Representative Phillip GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne), provides that a child is an individual under the age of 18, who is unable to exit a motor vehicle on his or her own accord. The law’s aim is to eliminate good samaritans from civil liability resulting from the forcible entry of a vehicle.

“We have been fortunate in Owen County that we have not had many reports of children being left unattended in hot cars, but you hear about these cases in cities with large shopping centers all the time,” Owen County Prosecutor Don VanDerMoere told the Spencer Evening World. “With that being said, we do receive a number of reports regarding animals being locked in vehicles during extremely hot days. I’m glad that the legislature is addressing the safety concerns for children, but I’d like to see them go a step further and create a similar provision regarding animals.”

Individuals granted immunity under the new law include those who: Determine a car is locked and that there is no way of getting the child out; Has a good faith belief that the child is in serious danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle; Contacts law enforcement before or as soon as they are able to; Uses no more force than necessary; and Remains with the child near the vehicle until police arrive on scene.

Anyone who renders aid to a child beyond what is authorized or exercises gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct are not immune from civil liability.

Even when the windows on a vehicle are left slightly open, interior temperatures can reportedly reach as high as 125 degrees in a matter of minutes. Approximately 80 percent of the temperature increase in a vehicle occurs within the first 10 minutes of sitting idle. Heat strokes have been sustained by children in vehicles with temperatures as low as 60 degrees.

The National Weather Service recommends that adults take the following measures to ensure that children remain safe:

•Check to make sure seating surfaces and equipment, like car seats and seat belt buckles, are not too hot when securing your child in a safety restraint system in a car that has been parked in the heat.

•Never leave your child unattended in a car, even with the windows down.

•Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.

•Always lock car doors and trunks – even at home – and keep keys out of children’s reach.

•Always make sure all child passengers have left the car when you reach your destination. Do not overlook sleeping infants.

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