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    FEELING THE HEAT: AAA Reminds Drivers of Heat-Related Dangers to Children and Pets in Hot Cars

    Summer is heating up; kids and pets remain at risk.

    The Delaware Valley is sizzling with temperatures topping 90 degrees yesterday and today.  If you think it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter inside your car. Every nine days, across the United States, a child dies while unattended in a hot car. It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and become deadly to a child or pet left inside. As summer temperatures rise, more kids are at risk – nine children in the U.S. under the age of five have died in hot cars since the beginning of the year. 

    Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities for children 14 and younger. According to KidsAndCars.org, nearly 1,000 children have died in hot cars nationwide in the past three decades, that’s an average of 39 fatalities per year. Studies have shown about 56% of child hot car deaths in vehicles were caused by adults forgetting the children, and 26% of victims were playing in an unattended vehicle. 

    “In the summer heat, a vehicle’s interior can reach lethal temperatures very quickly, essentially creating an oven, causing a child’s internal organs to shut down if left unattended inside,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Young children should never be left alone in a vehicle under any circumstances. The same is true for pets. Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat before you leave and lock the car. If you have to put a reminder note on your dashboard, an alarm on your phone or a stuffed animal in the front seat to remember to take a child out of the car, do it.”  

    Some scary statistics:

    • To date, 7 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2021
    • Vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of 26 children in 2020 (pandemic year) and 53 children in 2019
    • A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body
    • A child can die of heat stroke on a 72-degree day
    • A car can heat up by 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and become deadly
    • On a 95-degree day a car can heat up to over 180-degrees
    • The steering wheel can reach 159 degrees (temperature for cooking medium rare meat)
    • The seats can reach 162 degrees (temperature for cooking ground beef)
    • The dash can reach 181 degrees (temperature for cooking poultry)
    • At 104 degrees internal organs start to shut down

    Doing these important things can help prevent a hot car tragedy:

    • NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended.
    • Make it a habit to look in the back seat EVERY time you exit the car – set reminders electronically or otherwise in the vehicle to remember to take children out of the car
    • ALWAYS lock the car and put the keys out of reach. 
    • Call 9-1-1 immediately if you notice a child unattended in a car.

    AAA Mid-Atlantic’s efforts to make all drivers aware of this issue includes a video showing just how hot the inside of a vehicle can become.

    When it comes to heatstroke, animals are also at risk. Leaving them in a vehicle while you run into a store, take a break at a rest stop during a family road trip or for any other reason, can have deadly consequences. Make no mistake – just because your pet can’t tell you they are in distress, doesn’t mean they aren’t. Animals left in hot cars can face irreversible organ damage, heat stroke, brain damage and, in extreme cases, death.

    Signs of heatstroke in dogs and cats can include:

    • Panting
    • Excessive drooling
    • Vomiting
    • Reddened gums and tongue
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Wobbly, uncoordinated movement

    Animals are also at a more severe rate of risk when they have factors like age (very young, very old), obesity, poor heart/lung conditioning, are a short-nosed, flat-faced breed, or have a thick hair coat.

    Pennsylvania Law – Kids in Hot Cars

    In 2019, a new law went into effect in Pennsylvania to protect children in hot cars.  Under the law, Good Samaritans are protected from liability for damages if they believe a child is in imminent danger, providing that they have made a good faith effort to contact the vehicle owner and emergency responders, and they use no more force than necessary.

    Pennsylvania Law – Pets in Hot Cars

    In 2017, a new law went into effect in Pennsylvania to protect pets in hot cars.  Under the law, a police officer, humane officer or other public safety professional has the authority to remove a dog or cat from the unattended motor vehicle if the officer believes the dog or cat is suffering and endangered after a reasonable search for the owner or operator of the vehicle. The officer who removes a cat or dog from an unattended vehicle would not be held liable for any damages.

    AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit www.AAA.com.

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