Can you legally break a car window to save an unattended child?

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 11:08 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - As the temperatures rise throughout the Hoosier state, so do the temperatures in cars sitting in the hot sun.

In just minutes, internal temperatures in a car can rise drastically making it dangerous for kids and animals inside unattended cars.

“Children are left alone in cars every day in every city across our entire country and it’s a huge problem,” Amber Rollins said.

Amber Rollins is the director of Kids and Car Safety.

She says this year there have already been six child deaths from being inside a hot car, a number she expects to rise as the temperatures do.

But what do you do if you see a child or animal in an unattended car? Can you legally break a window to save them?

In Indiana, the answer is yes.

“Even if you see a child or a dog alone in a car and the windows are cracked, they may not be safe in there,” Rollins said. “So, you want to take action immediately and if that child or animal appears to be in distress, you need to get them out of the vehicle right away. Literally minutes can be the difference between a child having severe brain damage or even dying.”

In the Hoosier state the ‘Good Samaritan’ law protects you, legally, from breaking into a car to save a child or animal.

If you do break a window to save a child or pet, you must call 911 and stay with them until officers arrive. It’s a scary situation, but one that can be lifesaving.

Rollins says it’s crucial for people to know the law in order to save more lives.

“It’s important for people to understand that an enclosed vehicle acts like a greenhouse,” Rollins said.

For additional information on child hot car deaths, click here.