Indiana 'passenger responsibility' bill advances

| 2/26/2007

In hopes of preventing needless deaths along roadsides, the Indiana House unanimously approved a bill that would require passengers of vehicles to act and call police in life-or-death situations. It now heads to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, bill would require passengers to help injured or trapped drivers and immediately report the incident to law enforcement. All people involved in wrecks who are at least 15 years old would be required to attempt to notify someone for aid. Failure to act could result in up to 60 days in jail and as much as $500 in fines.

Neese is pursuing the effort in response to the death of Thomas Hoopingarner in November 2005.

Hoopingarner, a 17-year-old, died after two passengers in his vehicle left him trapped while the vehicle was inverted and underwater in a pond in northern Indiana, The Associated Press reported.

The two teenage passengers left him there without seeking aid and did not report the wreck, The Truth of Elkhart reported.

The case against the pair was closed a month later because no laws in Indiana supported filing charges against the teens.

"It is unfortunate that we have to legislate common sense and logic, but it has been proven some people would not even try to save a life by calling the police, even anonymously," Neese said in a written statement.

The bill - HB1521 - is awaiting assignment to committee in the Senate.