On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year. So far in 2014, 19 children have tragically died from such heat-related accidents.
So what can be done to prevent it?
19 states have laws specifically addressing the issue of children left unattended in vehicles. Indiana is not one of the 19.
Indiana’s Good Samaritan Act protects those acting in an emergency so long as that act is not from willful misconduct. Meaning, in an emergency situation, like a child being left unattended in a hot car, a person may use force to enter the vehicle to free the child.
Parents who leave their child in a car could be prosecuted under Indiana’s statute for “neglect of a dependent.” Each case would be looked at on an individual basis and would be dependent upon whether or not leaving a child unattended in the vehicle endangered the child’s life or health.
According to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, an investigation would look at the age of the children, how long they were in the vehicle, how long did the parents leave them unattended and whether the temperatures were extreme.
The so-called Good Samaritan would ultimately have to justify their actions in breaking into the car, however, police officers from Mishawaka and Elkhart County said they would likely not be held liable.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says cars parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures of 131-170 degrees with temperatures outside the vehicle are only 80-100 degrees.
“As a grown adult you can assume we can take care of ourselves, but a child, they have to have an adult there to be taken care of,” said Cpt. Gerard Ellis of the South Bend Fire Department.
Ellis said most police and fire fighters carry special devices to break through glass and cut through seatbelts, but any blunt object could be used to break a window in an emergency situation.