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Hamilton, NJ, August 6, 2021 – Temperatures over 90 degrees are predicted through the end of the week and if you think it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter in your car.  Every nine days, across the United States, a child dies while unattended in a hot car. Just yesterday a five-year-old boy died after reportedly being left in a hot car in Springfield, Virginia. 

It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and become deadly to a child or pet inside. As summer temperatures rise, more kids are at risk – twelve children in the U.S. have died in hot cars since the beginning of the year. 

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities for children 14 or younger. Nearly 1,000 children have died in hot cars nationwide in the past three decades, according to KidsAndCars.org. That’s an average of 39 fatalities per year. Studies have shown about 56 percent of child hot-car deaths in vehicles were caused by adults forgetting the children, and 26 percent 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 Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Young children and pets should never be left alone in a vehicle under any circumstances. Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat for children before you leave and lock the car. 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.”

In the past three decades, 994 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke, hyperthermia, or other complications.  Locally, 14 of those deaths occurred in New Jersey, 12 in Pennsylvania, 11 in New York and three in Delaware.  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.

 Some scary statistics:

  • Vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of 26 children in 2020 and 53 children in 2019.  
  • To date, 12 have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2021
  • 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

AAA Mid-Atlantic Urges Motorists To ACT:

  • A—Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, not even for a minute. 
  • C—Create electronic reminders or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car - for example, a cell phone, purse, wallet, briefcase or shoes.  Always lock your car and 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:

  • 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.

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.




AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and nearly two million members in New Jersey. 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, not-for-profit membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, provide 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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