Indiana legislator pursues ‘passenger responsibility’ law

| 1/9/2008

In hopes of preventing needless deaths along roadsides, an Indiana lawmaker is calling for passage of a law that would require passengers of vehicles to act and call police in life-or-death situations. It is the second year in a row the effort has been offered in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, bill would require passengers to help injured or trapped drivers and immediately report incidents to law enforcement. All people 15 and older who are in vehicles involved in wrecks 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 fines.

A similar version died in the Senate during the 2007 session. The House previously approved it.

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 not reporting 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.

Neese said it is unfortunate there is a need to legislate common sense and logic. But he said it has been proven some people would not even try to save a life by calling authorities, even anonymously.

The bill – HB1052 – can be considered during the session that began Monday, Jan. 8.

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