WAYNE COUNTY—A new state law went into effect last week protecting good Samaritans from liability for damage done to a vehicle while rescuing a child.

Signed into law on May 15 as Act 5, formerly House Bill 279, the law removes liability from individuals who break into a car or other motor vehicle to rescue a child they believe is in imminent danger if they have first made an effort to locate the vehicle owner, use no more force than necessary, call 9-1-1 and wait for emergency responders to arrive, according to the legislation.

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) caution that “Parents or caregivers who leave a child in a hot car may face serious charges, including Endangering the Welfare of Children.”

Similar charges and penalties can be filed against pet owners who leave their furry family members unattended in a hot car.

Legislation removing liability from law enforcement and animal control officers who break into a car following similar parameters as outlined above was passed last year.

As earlier reported, so far this year, there have been 20 fatalities related to children left in hot cars.

PSP notes, “Since 1995, there have been 12 child heatstroke deaths in vehicles in Pennsylvania.”

According to NoHeatstroke.org—a website containing data compiled from Jan Null, Certified Consulting Meteorologist at San Jose State University—on an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a car can raise almost 15 degrees within two minutes.

Within an hour, the internal temperature can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Leaving the windows cracked only affected the internal car temperature by fewer than three degrees.

PSP notes “Studies show a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult body.”

Representative Karen Boback (R-117, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming), primary sponsor for House Bill 279, noted in the legislation's memorandum, “All too often, we hear news reports involving young children being left in a hot car – sometimes with tragic results.

“According to the nonprofit organization KidsAndCars.org, on a yearly average, 38 children die heat-related deaths as a result of being trapped inside motor vehicles. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car.”

Noting she had received reports of passersby not wishing to get inovled or being unsure what do to, Boback's memo adds, “As a "good samaritan" no one should be subjected to a civil law suit.

“Far more than the cost of a new car window, this bill is about educating people and providing a level of comfort that enables them to step in when appropriate.”

Boback introduced this legislation twice before in the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 legislative sessions.