HB2494 was approved by the Arizona State Senate on April 5, 2017, and has been sent back to the House, the chamber that it originated in. As written, the Civil liability; vehicles; minors and animals bill would allow good Samaritans to act without risk of liability if they rescue a child or a pet from a hot car.
Children left alone in hot cars continue to be a challenge for parents and others driving a vehicle with a child in it. This problem is responsible for 35 to 40 deaths annually in the U.S., and countless scares on the part of both the parent and/or child. Regrettably, the problem also applies to pets. The number of deaths associated with pets left in hot cars is too numerous to count.
Busy schedules, too little sleep, stress, other demands, and a change in the driving routine or route for a given day are just a few distractions that can cause an adult to forget that there is a child or pet in the car with him or her, especially if the child or pet is in a rear seat. A few products and software apps have been introduced to remind adults that someone else is on board in the vehicle, however, none are being sold in large volumes.
Governor Doug Ducey said it best in his recent state of the state speech: “All it takes is a good Samaritan to save a life. To be on the lookout, see movement, take action, and stop another death. The last thing we’d want is any Arizonan worried about breaking into that car to save a life. Send me a bill protecting the good Samaritans who save the lives of children and pets — and I’ll sign it.”
Most vehicle manufacturers and even NASA have done some work on this issue, however, most of their proposed solutions or designs are not in the latest model vehicles. Why? The reasons are many: reliability issues, liability risks, cost, the absence of clear regulatory guidelines — and, perhaps most critically, the apparent lack of demand. GMC has introduced the Rear Seat Reminder in the redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia. From the dashboard, it prompts the driver to check the backseat for something — or more importantly someone — left back there. A GM spokeswoman said the company plans to offer the feature in 10 models in the future. [Ref 1]
Currently, only 19 states in the US have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle. The AZ Bill has the following provisions: A person who uses reasonable force to remove a child or domestic animal from a locked motor vehicle is not liable for damages in a civil action if they comply with the following three conditions:
- The rescuer has a good faith belief that the confined child or pet is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death unless they are removed from the vehicle
- Before entering the vehicle, the rescuer must notify the proper authorities.
- The rescuer remains with the child or pet until the authorities arrive.
In addition to the above, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Legislative Coalition of Arizona, and local advocates are also in support of the legislation.
“Every year, local police and our Emergency Animal Medical Technicians respond to dozens of calls of children and pets left in hot cars,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, CEO of the Arizona Humane Society. “This law allows us to be able to direct the caller to take action, immediately, without exposing the Good Samaritan to liability for breaking a window and potentially saving a life.”
My interest in this bill is tied to some personal research that I’ve done on this topic. HB2494 was first introduced in the Arizona Legislature on February 8, 2017, and has passed in both the House and the Senate. The bill has been sent back to the House, and is expected to make its way to Governor Ducey’s desk for signature.
- 2017 GMC Acadia’s Rear Seat Reminder Helps Prevent In-Car Heatstroke, by Jennifer Newman for Cars.com, July 28, 2016, https://www.cars.com/articles/2017-gmc-acadias-rear-seat-reminder-helps-prevent-in-car-heatstroke–1420686709056/