Auto Club: Heat Warnings Increase Danger Of Leaving People, Pets Inside Vehicles

(LOS ANGELES, July 23, 2009) – With the Southland experiencing a lingering heat wave with temperatures in the 90-100 degree range, the Automobile Club of Southern California strongly reminds motorists of the danger of leaving children alone in a closed vehicle.

The Auto Club reminds parents and childcare givers that children can die within minutes in hot temperatures. Recently in Los Angeles, a car thief stole a vehicle with children inside generating concern that the thief might abandon the car with the kids inside during the high temperatures. The vehicle and children were found three hours later, unharmed.

Nationwide 423 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles since 1998.

“We think that we’re only going to be inside a store for just a few minutes, but 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 traffic safety researcher 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.

California law makes it illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle, imposing fines and jail sentences for offenses. “Make ‘look before you leave the car’ a routine whenever you exit a vehicle,” Bloch said.

Parking in shade, cracking windows open and tinted windows don’t 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 degrees inside a car. Within minutes the temperature can climb to 150 degrees. In a few minutes, a child can become dehydrated with the body’s internal temperature climbing above 107 degrees.

The Auto Club urges motorists to:
  • Never leave car keys where children can get to them.
  • Keep 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 tinted or 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.
  • Don’t treat heatstroke at home with cold water or cooling the child in a tub of water. Only a specialist should treat heatstroke. Seek medical treatment immediately.