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Hot cars deadly for kids, pets

As the coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, it can be hard to focus on anything else, but there’s another potentially fatal danger that also spikes in the summer months, and that’s cases of children and animals left in hot cars.

In 2018, 53 children died in hot cars. It was the deadliest year on record in two decades, over which time more than 800 children died from “vehicular heatstroke,” according to the National Safety Council.

Again in 2019, 53 children died in hot cars, according to KidsandCars.org. Most of the cases involved children 4 and younger, who likely were in car seats or did not know how to escape the hot vehicle.

Already this year, eight children have died as a result of injuries caused by being left in a hot car, and most of those cases occurred in June, with two already in July.

On average, 39 children die in hot cars each year, equating to about one every nine days.

And just like children, many animals die each year because their owners left them in a hot vehicle, usually intentionally.

The inside of a vehicle heats up incredibly quickly, reaching 125 degrees in just minutes.

KidsandCars.org, a group that advocates for vehicle safety measures to protect children, reports that 80% of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes, which means the heat in a vehicle becomes dangerously high almost immediately.

Children have died from heatstroke in cars in temperatures as low as 60 degrees, according to the organization.

Making matters worse, a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult’s body.

Likewise, animals don’t cool themselves the same ways humans do. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “While humans cool themselves by relying on an extensive system of sweat glands and evaporation, dogs and other animals have a harder time staying cool, leaving them extremely vulnerable to heatstroke.”

Here are some tips to prevent injury or death:

  • If you see an animal left in a hot car, call 911 or the local police immediately, and remain near the car to monitor the animal’s condition. If the windows are cracked, try to offer the animal water.
  • Remember that rolling down or “cracking” the windows in a vehicle has little to no impact on keeping the vehicle cool.
  • Make it a habit to open the back door and check your back seat every time you park to ensure no one is left behind. Many people will place an item like their purse, phone or handbag in the back seat as a reminder.
  • Ask your child’s school or child care provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived on schedule. Most cases (80%) of children who die in hot cars occur in the parking lot of their guardian’s workplace, signaling that the guardian forgot to drop the child off at their child care provider before going to work.
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially when parked in the garage, driveway or on the street.
  • Never leave your keys within reach of children.
  • Teach children to honk the horn if they become stuck in a vehicle.
  • If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside of your vehicle, including the trunk.

For more information and other safety tips, visit kidsandcars.org or humanesociety.org.