Auto Club: It's Never Safe to Leave Children, Pets or the Elderly Alone in the Car in the Heat

(LOS ANGELES, July 2, 2007) — Nationwide 42 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles in 2005. The Automobile Club of Southern California reminds motorists of the danger of leaving children alone in a closed vehicle, especially as the weather gets hotter. The Auto Club reminds parents and childcare givers that children can die within minutes in hot temperatures. The same caution applies to the elderly and pets.

"Children under age four are the most at-risk for having their lives endangered by being left in a hot car for any length of time," said Steven Bloch, Ph.D., senior research associate for the Auto Club. "Children should not be intentionally left in a car by an adult, or forgotten because of adult distraction. Children also should not be allowed to play in or around cars," he added.

In the last few years, there have been several cases of children who died after being locked in a vehicle during hot weather. California law makes it illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle, imposing fines and jail sentences for offenses.

Pets and the elderly also should not be left in closed vehicles during hot weather. All are susceptible to heat illness, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Parking in shade, cracking windows open and tinted windows do not make a difference in the interior temperature of a closed car, according to pediatric researchers.

Doctors warn that if it's a 90 degree day, it could be 130 inside a car. Within minutes the temperature can climb to 150 degrees. In a short time, a child can become dehydrated with the body's internal temperature climbing above 107 degrees. Even five minutes locked in a car when it's hot outside endangers children, adults and pets.

The Auto Club urges motorists:

  • Never leave your keys where children can get to them.
  • Keep your doors and windows locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a car, even for a minute, and even if the windows are down. The same recommendation applies to pets and the elderly.
  • Make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination.
  • Before buckling up your child, make sure the seat, and seat belt are not too hot.
  • If you see a child locked in a car, immediately call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.
  • Get the child to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
  • Never try to treat heatstroke at home with cold water or cooling the child in a tub of water. Only a specialist should treat heatstroke.