OKLAHOMA CITY — A ‘Good Samaritan’ measure has been passed by the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
House Bill 1902 states that anyone breaking into a locked vehicle to rescue a child cannot be sued.
The bill passed unopposed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The bill, originally to go into effect Nov. 1, will now go into effect immediately upon getting Governor Fallin’s signature, thanks to an alteration made by the Senate.
“HB 1902 would immunize from civil liability anyone who breaks out a window in a locked motor vehicle to save the life of an endangered child,” a press release reads.
“Because of our litigious society, this measure is needed to save the lives of unattended children,” Senator Kevin Matthews said.
During a typical Oklahoma summer, the temperature inside a hot car can rise more than 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, and the body temperatures of children can increase three to five times faster than adults, medical officials say.
“And leaving a child locked inside a vehicle could lead to death or heat stroke in the same brief amount of time,” he said.
There are still stipulations about when someone can break into a vehicle to save a child.
Under HB 1902, a “Good Samaritan” would be protected from liability if he/she:
- found the vehicle locked “or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the child to exit” the vehicle;
- has “a good-faith belief” that forcible entry “is necessary because the child is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed” from the vehicle, and, “based upon the circumstances … the belief is a reasonable one”;
- contacts the local law-enforcement agency, the fire department or the 911 emergency telephone service prior to breaking into the vehicle;
- leaves a notice on the vehicle’s windshield “with the person’s contact information, the reason entry was made, the location of the child,” and word that authorities have been notified;
- remains with the child “in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the motor vehicle,” until the police or sheriff’s department, fire department or some other emergency responder arrives;
- exercised “no more force … than necessary under the circumstances” to enter the vehicle and remove the child.
Oklahoma legislators passed the “Forget Me Not Vehicle Safety Act” in 2008 that makes it a misdemeanor to “leave a child under 6 – or a vulnerable adult – unattended in a motor vehicle with inadequate ventilation or under extreme weather conditions.”
Last year, at least 30 heat stroke deaths of children left in cars were reported nationally; one of those incidents occurred in Ardmore.