“In the United States, every single year there is an average of 40 children who die from heatstroke after they were left in an unattended vehicle,”
(Sacramento) – California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2717 into law on September 30, a bill authored by Assembly Member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park). The new law will provide people with immunity from liability for damage to cars and trucks when someone is rescuing children age 6 and younger trapped in a vehicle. The law takes effect on January 1, 2021.
“In the United States, every single year there is an average of 40 children who die from heatstroke after they were left in an unattended vehicle,” said Assembly Member Chau. “Here in California, for 2018 and 2019, there were six children who died after being left in a hot car – that’s six children too many. Those are innocent and precious lives that could have been saved, and that is the reason why I introduced this legislation,” Chau said.
The potential for hot or warm days throughout much of the year in Southern California can lead to danger for kids. AAA research shows that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for kids 14 and younger. In 90-degree weather, the inside of a vehicle, in direct sunlight, can exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on a mild, sunny day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.
Children are particularly susceptible to heatstroke because their bodies can heat up to three to five times faster than adults. Heatstroke deaths have been recorded in 11 months of the year in nearly all 50 states. More than half of heatstroke deaths occur when a distracted caregiver forgets about a quiet child in the vehicle. A quarter of vehicle heatstroke deaths occur when a child crawls inside an unlocked vehicle and becomes trapped.
AB 2717 received support from the California Professional Firefighters, Emergency Medical Services Administrators Association of California, and The Auto Club of Southern California and AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah.
“These are not typically intentional deaths, but rather happen when parents or guardians make a change in their routine or neglect to properly lock cars and trucks,” said Auto Club Traffic Safety and Community Programs Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “The result of these tragedies can forever change families. This new law will help inspire good Samaritans to take action without hesitation to save a child,” Lorz Villagrana said.