On average 37 children die of heatstroke in unattended cars each year in the United States. Temperatures inside vehicles can spike to dangerous levels in minutes, and children experience the effects of overheating much more quickly than adults.
You may think you’ll never have a reason to break into another person’s vehicle, but bystanders can play a critical role in preventing these tragic deaths. Be prepared to quickly take action in an emergency involving a child or pet trapped in a hot car by following these steps.
What to do if a child or animal is trapped in a hot car
Good Samaritans who break into a vehicle to save a minor or an animal are protected by Ohio law from any civil liability or damages.
The following instructions are only to be used in emergency situations when the life of a child or pet is in immediate danger.
1. Quickly check for unlocked doors, then call 911 or recruit a bystander to do so if you’re not able to gain access to the vehicle. Under Ohio law, you must take these steps to receive immunity for any damage or other charges.
2. Locate a tool you can use to break the car window, such as a tire iron or screwdriver. If you keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, consider adding an inexpensive window hammer.
3. Select the side window furthest from the child to reduce the risk of injuries resulting from shattered glass.
4. Drive the tool into one of the window’s lower corners until the glass breaks. Avoid focusing your efforts on the center of the window, as this is the strongest section.
5. Carefully clear any remaining glass shards from the edges of the window and remove the child from the vehicle while you wait for emergency personnel to arrive at the scene.
Sections 2151.88 and 959.133 of the Ohio Revised Code outline the full details of the immunity offered to those who come to the rescue in these situations. Take a few minutes to review the guidelines so you’ll be prepared to take action without hesitation in an emergency.