First responders welcome new law to prevent hot car deaths


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Just in time for the extreme heat this weekend, a new law could help save young lives. Act 5 of 2019 allows people to break into locked cars if they see children in danger.

Whether it’s 100 degrees or even 70 degrees, leaving kids in cars can be deadly. According to AAA statistics, a child dies from heatstroke from being left alone in a hot vehicle about once every 10 days.

“I’ve seen toddlers in the backseat of a car and the car is off and the window a little bit open. It makes me feel uncomfortable because the parents are not even there, first of all. They could get kidnapped or suffocate in the car, and anything could happen to them,” said Lydia Soto.

Soto has seen it happen and tried to get help.

“A couple of times I went to call the cops, and then when we called the cops, then all the sudden the parents get there,” she said.

In just 10 minutes, the temperature in a car can rise 20 degrees.

“People honestly do not think that it’s a big deal to leave their kids in a vehicle for 20-plus minutes because it’s not going to get that hot, Susquehanna Township EMS Chief Matthew Bailey said. “It’s absolutely going to get that hot.”

Bailey says it’s a constant concern.

“You’re talking about children that are strapped into a car seat, unable to get themselves out or extract themselves from the situation, cooking to death. I mean, that’s a horrible situation,” Bailey said.

The new law makes it easier for people to save children in imminent danger.

“The main part of that law is making a reasonable effort to notify the vehicle owner by trying to reach them or contacting the police and fire department,” Susquehanna Township police Lt. Francia Done said.

After they’ve made that effort, people can smash a window if they feel there’s not enough time for first responders to react.

“This just brings more awareness of the resources out there for citizens to be able to call and not feel pressured, obligated, or that they may be held liable civilly for notifying police,” Done said.

While this law only covers children, don’t forget about your pets. A 2018 law allows for police officers and other first responders to remove animals from hot cars if they’re in danger.

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