Now that spring is here, summer is just around the corner. While the warmer weather and longer days mean spending more time in the sun, there are many dangers associated with the heat.
When it’s hot outside, sometimes forgetful parents and homeowners leave their children or animals inside a vehicle for hours at a time. Unfortunately, this type of behavior often results in tragedy.
According to Kids and Cars, approximately 37 children die annually in hot vehicles. At least 90 percent of reported deaths in the United States occurred between April and September.
Younger children are considered the most at risk in these types of incidents. In fact, 87 percent of children under three years old or younger suffer vehicular heatstroke, while 55 percent are one or younger.
Wisconsin Criminal Penalties for Leaving a Child in a Hot Car
Wisconsin law states that "No person responsible for a child's welfare while the child is being transported in a child care vehicle may leave the child unattended ... "
"Child care vehicle" means a vehicle that is owned or leased by a child care provider or a contractor of a child care provider and that is used to transport children to and from the child care provider. Thus, it's important to note that it's not illegal to leave a child unattended in just any vehicle; it must be a child care provider's or their contractor's vehicle, such as a day care passenger van.
Leaving a child in a child care vehicle is considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum nine-month jail term and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If the child suffered bodily harm after being left inside a hot child care vehicle unattended, it is a Class I felony that carries a maximum six-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the child suffered great bodily harm, it is a Class H felony which results in up to three years of imprisonment and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.
Lastly, if a child dies in a hot child care vehicle, it is a Class G felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a maximum $25,000 fine.
“Good Samaritan” Law
In June 2016, Wisconsin became one of several states that allow people to rescue children and pets in hot cars. Known as the “Good Samaritan” law, it was created to prevent an individual with good intentions from being held liable for breaking a window in order to save another person or animal.
According to this law, if you see a vulnerable person or animal in a hot vehicle, you must perform the following steps in order:
- Check if the doors are locked
- If the doors are locked, attempt to find the person responsible for the child or pet
- If you cannot locate the responsible individual, contact law enforcement and then attempt to break one of the car’s windows
Every minute counts when a person or animal is trapped in a hot vehicle. If a child is red or unresponsive, you must take immediate action.