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Legislator Wants To Crack Down On Those Who Leave Children In Hot Vehicles

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Temperatures are expected to be back in the 90s next week and one Oklahoma lawmaker is urging parents to be on alert about leaving children inside hot cars.

Oklahoma State Representative Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa) says he's considering filing legislation that would give people the power to do whatever's necessary to save a child's life in that situation without the threat of being sued.

In just 10 minutes the temperature inside a hot car can rise more than 20 degrees, and leaving your child locked inside could lead to death or heat stroke in that same amount of time.

This year, 17 children have died nationally from heatstroke after being left inside a hot car. One of those deaths happened last month in Ardmore. Prosecutors charged a man with first-degree manslaughter after a 2-month-old boy died. They say the man left him in a hot car for several hours.

Oklahoma Representative Kevin Matthews is alarmed at the rate this is happening.

“We want to study this and talk about the positives and negatives before we take action,” Matthews said. “But I want to bring this to people's attention; we want to save lives."

In 2008, Oklahoma lawmakers passed the "Forget Me Not Vehicle Safety Act," which holds parents and caregivers accountable if a child is left unattended in a car.

But that's only a $50 fine for the first offense.

Matthews' top priority is looking at the role Good Samaritans play when they see a child sitting unattended in a hot car.

Matthews wants to make sure those people wouldn't be held liable if they decided to save a child's life.

“In this world of lawsuits, you could possibly looking at someone trying to sue you for breaking their window to save their own child and I want to make sure that's not the case," he said.

Oklahoma currently has a Good Samaritan law, which protects ordinary citizens from being sued if they give someone emergency medical care.

But Matthews hopes he and other lawmakers can spend some time studying current laws and make sure those same protections apply to Good Samaritans who try to save a child left in a hot car.

“If they do cover it, we need to make people aware of it,” he said, “And if they don't, I want to pass legislation to save children.

Matthews says he hopes those informal meetings could start in few weeks.

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