Michigan Falling Short in Protecting Kids in Hot Cars
It’s no secret that there are a lot of dangers associated with vehicles. In fact, there are about 5.5 million car accidents each year in the U.S. alone. But during the hot summer weather, vehicles pose yet another danger.
All too often, young children are left unattended in hot cars. Last year, 42 children died because they were left too long in a hot car. Being in a hot car can become dangerous very quickly and can lead to significant health concerns, including death. This is why more and more states are adopting laws to protect people who rescue children from hot cars. The Good Samaritan law allows people to avoid facing lawsuits if they damage a car to get a child out. And while many states are being proactive about adopting this law, Michigan is falling behind.
Under current Michigan law, anyone who damages a vehicle in an attempt to save a child or animal from a hot car is not protected in any following lawsuits regarding property damage. Unfortunately, this lack of protection can deter people from taking action when they see a child unattended in a hot car.
Fortunately, there are Michigan laws in place to penalize those who do choose to leave a child unattended in a hot car. Under the current law, someone who is caring for a child six years or younger must not leave them unattended, or not supervised by someone 13 years or older, in a vehicle for an extended period of time. If someone leaves a child in a vehicle under circumstances that constitute “unreasonable risk of harm or injury”, they are subject to a misdemeanor. And if the child is seriously injured or dies, the supervising adult will face felony charges.
Another risk is to children who gain access to unlocked vehicles. According to NoHeatStroke.org, 27% of hot car deaths are due to this. Over 50% are forgotten in the car. Before you think it can’t happen to you, think again: experts agree that it is possible to forget your child is in the car due to the way the human brain is wired. It’s commonly referred to as “auto-pilot”, and it’s how you can find yourself arriving at your destination while having no recollection of your drive there. The “Look Before You Lock” campaign has been running for a few years to help mitigate this danger.
And the danger is real. The inside of a car can quickly and drastically heat up when the windows are rolled up and the air conditioning is not running. If it’s 80 degrees outside, after just one hour the inside temperature of the car can reach 123 degrees. So even if parents think leaving their child in the car for just a few minutes is fine, they’re strongly mistaken.
Laws get added and changed regularly, especially with there being more than 300 bills currently waiting for Senate action. So, Michigan residents are pushing for a Good Samaritan law to protect individuals trying to rescue children from hot cars.
Amber Rollins, Director of KidsandCars.org, explains, “The laws really are about the liability protection but also more importantly there about raising awareness about the dangers of children alone in cars also about empowering citizens to get involved when they may otherwise feel like it’s none of their business.”