Public Affairs Director
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July 31, 2017 – Despite the recent break in oppressive temperatures, heatstroke poses a significant safety threat to children and pets left alone in hot cars. National Heatstroke Prevention Day is today, Monday, July 31, and AAA South Dakota is joining other advocacy groups and safety organizations to warn drivers to never leave children or pets alone in a vehicle.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities for children 14 and younger, with an average of 37 fatalities per year since 1998.
“Drivers may think it’s okay to leave children and pets unattended in a vehicle while they run a quick errand,” says Marilyn Buskohl, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA South Dakota. “The decision to choose perceived convenience over safety can have tragic consequences.”
Some scary statistics:
- To date, 26 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2017, 18 since Memorial Day weekend.
- Vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of 39 children in 2016.
- 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
- 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
- Of the 636 heatstroke deaths in children from 1998-2014:
- 53% child “forgotten” by caregiver (336 children)
- 29% child playing in unattended vehicle (186 children)
- 17% child intentionally left in vehicle by adult (110 children)
“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 Buskohl. “Young children should never be left alone in a vehicle under any circumstances. Even if you have to put a reminder post-it 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.”
AAA South Dakota Urges Motorists To ACT:
- A—Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, not even for a minute.
- C—Create reminders by putting something in the backseat you need when exiting the car - for example, a cell phone, purse, wallet, briefcase or shoes. Never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.
- T—Take action and immediately call 9-1-1- if you notice a child unattended in a car.
When it comes to heatstroke, your 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:
- Excessive drooling
- 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.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and nearly 97,000 members in South Dakota. 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 not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, 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, visit www.AAA.com.