State senator wants to end liability for helping kids in hot cars

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Across the country, dozens of children left in hot cars die every year; so a state senator is working to introduce a bill to help prevent that.

Good Samaritan laws protect you if you try to help a crime victim or someone with a medical issue. They’re meant to keep a person immune from liability so they’re more likely to help in an emergency.

Now one Pennsylvania lawmaker also wants them to protect you if you happen to need to break a window out of a car.

Many of us have seen the videos of cops or bystanders breaking out a car window to save a child stuck inside.

“Everybody out there, just pay attention. Get your kids our of the car,” said Jeremey Riland, a Midstate father.

Riland said he wouldn’t hesitate to make that decision, whether it was his kid or not. State Sen. Dominic Pileggi wants to make sure he wouldn’t face charges if he did it.

“That’s a great idea,” Riland said. “If I saw a kid or even an animal in a hot car with the windows up, I’d bust the windows out.”

Pileggi plans to sponsor a bill to expand Good Samaritan protections. That would mean someone who breaks into a car to save a child locked inside would not be held civilly liable.

The goal is the same as any other Good Samaritan law — to get people to help without fearing the consequences.

“You know, I would hope people wouldn’t hesitate anyway,” said David McCann. “But I think that people do.”

It’s unclear just what would be protected under the measure and what would not; Pileggi hasn’t filed a formal bill yet, just a memorandum for co-sponsorship in the Senate.

But a police chief we talked to says protected or not, if you can leave it to a professional, do so.

“I certainly would encourage anybody, if there’s time, and if a life isn’t in immediate danger, to contact the police and have us come out and try to take some action,” Swatara Twp. Police Chief Jason Umberger.

That’s not good enough for parents like Riland. He said he wouldn’t hesitate, and he doesn’t want anyone else to, either.

“I hope somebody would do that for my kid if I were to ever leave my kid in the car,” Riland said. “Bust my windows out.”

Advocacy group Safe Kids Pennsylvania says a child dies in a hot car somewhere in the U.S. at least once every ten days.

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