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Savannah's Law: How a Free Test Could Save a Life

Savannah Bettis died two years ago of carbon monoxide poisoning and a wreck that happened as a result. Now there might be a free test for your car.

STATE HOUSE--When Savannah Bettis died two years ago in Avon, investigators didn't know what had happened to her at first. After toxicology tests came back, they figured out she breathed in carbon monoxide while riding down the road in her car with her boyfriend.

He also got carbon monoxide poisoning and crashed the car while trying to drive Bettis to the hospital after she passed out. He survived the crash and the poisoning.

The used car death trap

But, some people believe if the Bettis' had known about a simple, ten-minute carbon monoxide test for cars, it might've save Savannah's life.

"Most parents when they go out and buy their kids a vehicle, you're looking anywhere from a $2,000 to a $5,000 vehicle, and normally, ten years or older," said John Bettis, Savannah's father, who, along with his wife Wendy, testified in front of the state House Committee on Roads and Transportation.

Older cars can develop leaks that funnel potentially fatal fumes into the cab, which is what happened to Savannah Bettis.

"We want to educate people on this silent killer because they could be buying your child a death trap from the get go and nobody would even know about it," said Bettis.

The test for two years past

In Wayne Township and Clermont, firefighters have been testing cars for people come in and ask for it, for free, for the past two years. State Sen. Mike Delph is asking the House to pass the "Savannah's Law" bill (SB 100), which would take the program state wide.

The bill has already passed the state Senate unanimously.

"This is just another vehicle that fire departments and public safety agencies can utilize to help protect the citizens of Indiana," said Rick Scott, deputy fire chief for Wayne Township. He said his agency has already developed the procedure and the forms to fill out.

Helping with the cause

"The Bettis family originally sought to have mandatory carbon monoxide testing of all vehicles and that is something our state did back in the 50s and 60s. But, we are not seeking to do that today," said Delph. But, the Bettis family is helping with the cause in other ways besides just speaking about it.

"The Bettis' have purchased ten of these (the testing devices) and they plan on going throughout the state of Indiana and giving these to fire departments, no matter if it's a full-time or volunteer department," said Andy Harris, Avon trusty, who helped the family with burial arrangements.

The test is conducted in the passenger side of the car, with the heat first, then the AC, then a reading.

"If there had been a day that she had felt a headache or dizziness and they had vbeen able to correlate that to the vehicle, this provision would have allowed us to have the Bettis family go and have this testing done and possibly have prevented the accident," said Avon Asst. Police Chief Brian Nugent, who brought the exhaust system of Bettis' car to the hearing.

"I wish we had Savannah back. But, this is her legacy she's been pushing forward," said Bettis.

PHOTO: Courtesy Mike Delph/Indiana Senate

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