Indiana’s ‘passenger responsibility’ bill advances

| 2/14/2008

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 moves to the Senate where a similar version died a year ago.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, the bill would require passengers to help injured or trapped drivers and immediately report the incident to law enforcement. All people who are at least 15 years and 6 months of age 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.

Indiana law now only requires drivers to contact emergency personnel if a wreck results in injury or death.

Neese is pursuing the effort in response to the death of Thomas Hoopingarner in November 2005. Hoopingarner, a 17-year-old, died after two riders in his vehicle left him trapped while the vehicle was inverted 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 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 try to save a life by calling authorities, even anonymously.

The bill – HB1052 – is in the Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor