NJ’s Good Samaritans need protection, legislator says
Do you think a person should be able to forcibly enter a vehicle to save the life of a child or pet left inside unattended without fear of being sued or arrested if they cause damage to the car?
One New Jersey legislator said these Good Samaritans deserve civil immunity and he planned to try and create a law to give it to them. Tennessee recently enacted a similar statute.
"People often call 911 first, but it takes time for first responders to arrive and in these types of cases you don't know how long the child or the pet has been in the car and you want to try to react," said Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton). "People aren't always sure what to do because if you cause any damage you're afraid that by doing the right thing to save a life that you might be in trouble later."
Legislation sponsored by Benson is being drafted and was expected to be formally introduced the next time the Assembly is in session. The measure did not have a bill number yet. The assemblyman said under the bill people would be required to call 911 before breaking into a vehicle to save a life and wait for first responders to arrive after they've safely removed a child or pet.
"Far too often we are hearing tragic stories of children unfortunately being left in a vehicle and then losing their lives," Benson said.
Since 1998, there have been 637 deaths in the U.S. as a result of adults leaving young children in vehicles according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"My bill will be pretty simple; we want to make sure people can act when they see this and make sure that not only can we save a child's life, but we can save animals' lives too," Benson explained.
Under the proposed bill, people would have to make a good faith effort to forcibly enter a vehicle in a manner that causes the least amount of damage. Benson thought his legislation would be well-received in terms of saving children, but said some critics could try to weigh the cost of the damage against the cost of a pet and not everyone is an animal lover.
Even on simply a warm day the temperature inside of a vehicle can climb to 120 degrees, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Benson encouraged pet owners to visit the Human Society's website for tips on how to keep pets safe in the heat.