It’s ok to break the window to save a young life

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) – Three separate incidents involving unattended children left in hot cars this past holiday weekend has prompted many questions about the legality of witnesses intervening.

News 12 spoke to Darlene Karst after she discovered an infant that had been left unattended in a hot car.  The vehicle was parked in the 2 North Shopping Center parking lot. She didn’t have her cell phone on her to call 911 so she alerted other shoppers. She didn’t know if she could get in trouble had she broken the window to free the baby.

"What do I do, Do I break the window? Is that okay? You still have questions even though you’ve heard all these things," Karst said.

The answer to her question and many others who have been asking the very same question is yes.

The Tennessee Good Samaritan Law legally allows you to forcibly enter a locked vehicle to remove a child that is believed to be in danger. But if a person decides to do that, they need to call 911 and let the operator know the actions they’re about to take.

"They have the right to break the window and get that child out. Stay at that location until law enforcement or firefighters arrive," said Hamilton County Sheriff Capt. Charles Lowery Jr.

If someone decides the best course of action is to break the window, they must also know where to break the window to prevent injuring the child.

"If the child is in the back seat then shatter the front side window. Don’t go for the front windshield or the back windshield because those are two different types of windshields," Lowery said.

A small spring loaded emergency device for such emergencies is sold at most stores.  

"Just push it up against the window and the spring loaded device will actually shatter the window. Go to the corner of a window in order to shatter it," Lowery said.

If the car owner or parent who left the child in the hot car in the first place arrives before you take action, then leaves the scene; law enforcement wants to know about it. But they don’t want you to physically engage that person.

"Get as much information as possible. Watch the direction the person is leaving. If you’re ready to leave, follow them from a safe distance; get on a cell phone keep law enforcement advised as to the location and the way you’re traveling and then let us make that stop and go from that point," Lowery said.

If you have a cell phone with you, law enforcement advises recorded a video of everything including the baby, parent, car and license tag.

As for all parents of small children, They are encouraged to do what ever it takes to remind themselves to always check the back seat.

Ways of checking the back seat include placing a purse or some type of valuable on the back floor. So when mom reaches for her purse upon arrival to a store, she’s forced to see what’s in the back seat.

Categories: Local News

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