Indiana’s ‘passenger responsibility’ bill nears passage

| 3/6/2008

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

The Senate voted 46-1 in favor of a bill that would require passengers to help injured or trapped drivers and immediately report wrecks to law enforcement. The measure – HB1052 – now moves back to the House for approval of changes. If approved there, it would head to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ desk.

The current version of the bill would require all passengers ages 15 and older who are riding in vehicles that are involved in wrecks 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.

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

Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, 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 to law enforcement or emergency personnel. 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 that 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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor