WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, July 7, 2020) –– It is a heat wave. Temperatures topping 90 degrees are predicted through the end of the week across the Washington metro area, 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. 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 – seven children in the U.S. under the age of five have died in hot cars since the beginning of the year.
Today, Tuesday, July 7, is the 12th day of 90-degree heat in the Washington Metro area. Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14, with an average of 39 fatalities per year. AAA has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind parents and caregivers about the deadly consequences of leaving children in hot cars and to urge them to “look before you lock.” Heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
“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 John B. Townsend II, 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 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, 949 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke, hyperthermia, or other complications. Locally, three of those deaths occurred in Washington, D.C., 14 in Maryland, and 32 in Virginia. 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 53 children in 2019.
- To date, seven have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2020.
- 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.
The heat wave is slated to continue through mid-week and beyond across the Washington metro area. By definition, a heat wave is “a period of unusually hot weather that typically lasts two or more days,” explains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Heat waves kill more people in the United States than all other weather-related disasters combined, NOAA warns. Be very careful in cars.
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.
“Ooh, heat wave.” Residents of the Washington metro area have coped with 17 90-degree days so far. 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 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.
It is getting hot in here. Look up in the sky. It is dust from the Sahara Desert. “Since June 25, the Saharan Air Layer — a mass of very dry, dusty air that forms over the Sahara Desert and travels across the tropical Atlantic Ocean — has been detected in the skies across the Southeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic,” explains NOAA.
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