It’s now legal to break into hot cars to save children

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — An amendment to the “Good Samaritan Law” that went into effect May 8 now grants civil immunity to civilians who break into a vehicle to rescue a child confined within.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate in February and was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert March 15.

According to research from KidsAndCars.org, every year an average of 37 American children die heat-related deaths from being trapped in a vehicle. In Utah, 12 children died of vehicular heatstroke between 1996 and 2017.

Stock image, St. George News

Last summer, two toddlers from Utah died after being left in hot cars; one occurred in Las Vegas and the other in Washington County.

With temperatures on the rise in St. George, a parked car can reach 120 degrees in 10 minutes, even with the windows partially open. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 80 percent of a vehicle’s temperature increase occurs during the first 30 minutes.

Under the amended law, any person who uses reasonable force to rescue a child from a vehicle will not be liable for damages in a civil action so long as they have met certain requirements.

“It just gives another layer of confidence to a person who thinks that a minor might be in danger, then they can take action without being held civilly liable for the damage,” Quinn said.

To receive civil immunity when forcibly entering a vehicle to remove a child, a person must in good faith believe that the child is in imminent danger of physical injury or death. They must confirm that the vehicle is locked and there is no other way to enter and they must notify a first responder before entering the vehicle and remain with the child until the first responder arrives.

Children are not the only victims of vehicular heatstroke. Hundreds of pets die each year from being locked in a car. The Good Samaritan Law does not protect those who forcibly enter a car to rescue an animal though they are at the same risk of physical harm or death as children.

The reason they did not include animal rescuers in this bill is because the Legislature’s primary concern was for the safety of children, and did not want to risk the bill not being passed.

According to KidsAndCars.org, in 55 percent of vehicular heatstroke cases, the caretaker of the child claimed to have unknowingly left the them alone in the car.

Read more: Police: Mom says she forgot baby in car because the child was ‘so quiet’

This was the case for Carol Harrison and Miles Harrison, who accidentally left their son, Chase Harrison, in a hot car July 2008 according to a KidsAndCars.org press release. Today, the Harrisons work to spread awareness about the dangers of leaving children alone in a vehicle and how to prevent doing so by accident.

They share their story in a documentary, “To the Moon and Back,” by Susan Morgan Cooper. The documentary shows how the death of the Harrisons’ Russian-adopted son contributed to the Dima Yakovlev Act, or the Russian adoption ban.

During the summer it is especially important to take the necessary precautions to prevent tragedy. With the new law, the community as a whole is able to watch out for endangered children.

“My hope is that this saves a child’s life,” Quinn said.

Resources:

  • Read the full text of the bill here.
  • Prevention, safety tips and statistics can be found here.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Kilroywashere June 6, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Rep Tim Quinn – great job. This is a smart idea. The cost of a 1000 car windows is meaningless, if even one life is saved. People sometimes simply forget and lose track of time and intense heat is a killer. I will go out and make a purchase of a device applicable to breaking car windows and put it in my vehicle. Such divices exist, and if for some reason, I do make an error in case I have to use it one day to save potebtial lives, which I doubt, and hope wont have to happen, I’ll be more then glad to pay for the new window. I think this is a good thing and will save lives. Thanks for getting this done. Also kudos to the House, Senate, and Governor. I know the idea is you don’t have to pay for the window, but the real gist is for people to respond as Good Samaritans.

  • Rob83 June 7, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Another good thing that will come from this law, people will think twice now about leaving their child in the car “to quickly run in”, is even 5 minutes is too long and leaves for them forgetting they had them and then they get caught, right? And have to make up a lame excuse that they forgot they brought them!

  • Rob83 June 7, 2018 at 8:04 am

    So now people will freight that their window might get broken. Heaven forbid that prior to this new law their child could have died, right!? I’m annoyed, can you tell….

  • 42214 June 7, 2018 at 9:20 am

    I didn’t know it was ever illegal to save a child from dying in a hot car. What’s next, saving a person from drowning. Do we need a law for that too?

  • ladybugavenger June 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    I’m with 42214 on this.

    I didn’t know it was illegal. But not only that, if I was in that position, the legality of it wouldn’t cross my mind.

    Saving a life vs it’s illegal

    I would hope all of us would choose saving a life

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