CINCINNATI, Oh. (July 8, 2020) – Temperatures in the upper 80s to 90s will continue 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. 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.
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 Jenifer Moore, AAA spokeswoman. “Young children or 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, 949 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke, hyperthermia, or other complications. Locally, 21 of those deaths occurred in Ohio, 12 in Pennsylvania, 16 in Indiana and 27 in Kentucky. 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
AAA 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:
- 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.
In 2016, Senate Bill 215 was signed into Ohio law allowing a person to break into a hot car to save a minor or pet. The law allows immunity from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a vehicle to save a minor or pet as long as the person takes the follow steps:
- Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the minor or the animal to exit the vehicle.
- Believes forcible entry is necessary because the minor or pet is in imminent danger or death.
- Makes an effort to contact law enforcement, the fire department or a 9-1-1 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle. If contact is not possible before forcibly entering the vehicle, contacts law enforcement or an emergency responder as soon as possible after forcibly entering the vehicle.
- Places a notice on the vehicle's windshield with the person's contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor or the animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified.
- Remains with the minor or the animal in a safe location until law enforcement or emergency responders arrive.
- Uses no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the minor or the animal than is necessary under the circumstances.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 60 million members nationwide and nearly two and a half million members in Ohio. 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-stck, non-profit corporation working 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.